Cities, first reponders to get notice of oil-train shipments

OLYMPIA — It won’t be long before cities, counties, tribal governments and fire departments will be able to go online to get a heads-up about when oil trains are scheduled to come through their communities.

On Wednesday, the state adopted a rule requiring facilities that receive crude oil by rail to notify the Washington Department of Ecology in advance of expected deliveries. Ecology staff will spend the next few weeks preparing a database that emergency response agencies will use to access the information.

Then, beginning Oct. 1, owners and operators of facilities receiving shipments of crude oil by rail must provide notice of shipments expected for arrival in the succeeding 7-day period.

Refiners are required to identify the most likely route through the state for each crude-by-rail shipment. They also are encouraged to provide specific information on the type of crude oil.

If no delivery is expected, no notice is required. But if operators of a facility learn they will be getting a shipment, they need to put that information in the database.

Pipelines that transport crude oil also are required to submit biannual reports to Ecology.

The new law applies to four facilities that receive crude oil shipments by rail, and to two pipelines that transport crude oil in the state, according to the Ecology department. New facilities and pipelines will be subject to the rule.

Ecology officials have said the reason responsibility is placed on refiners rather than railroads is that they already report oil shipments by tanker, so it’s less of a burden on them to expand their reporting than to impose an entirely new system.

This new requirement is centerpiece of a 2015 law aimed at bolstering the ability of communities to prepare for and respond to accidents involving oil trains.

Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, a prime sponsor of the law, lauded the value of the new rule.

“The rule provides information to prepare for the possibility of an oil train derailment without compromising security or proprietary business information,” she said in a statement. “Every day that our state does not have strong rules about oil transportation in place is another day that we are putting our communities and our environment at risk.”

This week the Department of Ecology is expected to complete work on another component of the 2015 law when it adopts requirements regarding contingency plans for clean-up of oil spills.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos

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