Thursday, August 18

Washington State House of Representatives Considers Proposed Oil Legislation

The Washington State House of Representatives is currently considering bills that would seek to make oil transportation safer for workers, the public and the environment, if passed.

According to the Columbian, one of these bills, House Bill 1449, would increase regulations placed on railway and waterway oil transportation. The bill would require all railroads to develop a set of procedures and plans for oil spills, and to report information about the oil loads they transport to the state Department of Ecology. In addition, the bill seeks to increase the tax levied on oil transported by rail and pipeline.

For oil transportation workers in Washington state, safety has long been a neglected priority, the bill’s supporters say.

“What I’ve seen … is safety takes a backseat to production, always,” Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4, testified in a hearing with the members of the House Environment Committee on February 3. House Bill 1449, with its provisions for increased transparency and safety requirements, is a step in the right direction, he says.

“Many states have stepped up safety and development of emergency procedures in the wake of an accident, like Virginia,” shares Mandy Raps, Marketing Lead with Dragon Products, a U.S.-based energy and oilfield equipment manufacturer. “Since the dramatic increase in oil production due to advances in technology and hydraulic fracturing, rail has seen a rapid increase in usage to transport that oil in the last five years. Anything that helps insure the safety and well-being of those involved in the manufacturing and transportation of domestic oil is a good thing. Safety is of the utmost importance to the vast majority of producers and transporters, but oil is volatile and accidents can happen.”

Another bill currently being considered in the House is HB 1809, which outlines new regulations that would set a minimum of two crew members to be on each freight train passing through the state, according to Seattle’s 94.9 FM. For oil-carrying trains more than 50 cars long, two additional crew members would be required to supervise the rear of the train.

For oil trains, which are frequently more than a mile in length, having two extra people manning the train’s back end could help prevent catastrophe — for example, if the train’s rear caught fire and the workers at its front had no way to detect an emergency.

Both bills are still being deliberated in House committees, however — it may be weeks before an official vote is taken.

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