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New Washington Rules Require Railroads to Prove Oil Train Preparedness

September 2, 2016

New rules are taking effect in Washington that require railroads to prove their readiness for an oil train spill.

The rules, adopted this week, will require railroads  to file plans informing the state Department of Ecology of the steps they will take if an oil train derails and spills. The state then reviews those plans and puts railroads through drills to test their preparedness.

Spill planning was a longtime gap in oil train safety. [series: oil-trains-in-the-northwest,left,5751fccfa34b2f003216606f]

Railroads in Washington must now meet the same planning requirements as other forms of oil transport such as pipelines and ships.

“Washington has built a strong program that prevents and responds to oil spills in Washington waters,” Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement. “This rule ensures that railroads have the same high-quality plans long required for vessels so that our natural resources in the inland areas of our state are protected.”

 The rules take effect Oct. 1. They are part of a broader overhaul of oil train regulation in Washington. The state also requires refineries or oil terminals give advance notice of any expected oil train shipments. No other state has such a rule.

Oregon considered similar rules in its legislature last year, but withdrew them after industry lobbying.


Chris Hooper, right, of White Salmon watches the fire caused by a derailed oil train in Mosier, Oregon, near Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge on Friday, June 3, 2016.

John Sepulvado