State Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, Thursday called on U.S. Sec. of Transportation Anthony Foxx to expedite tougher safety regulations for the rail transport of crude oil. O’Ban cited recent accidents in the United States and Canada and what state officials predict will be a threefold increase in Washington’s rail traffic as “evidence that safety gaps on a federal level are potentially putting people and communities at risk.”
During the 2014 legislative session O’Ban sponsored a resolution, Senate Joint Memorial 8015, calling on Congress to toughen standards for new tank cars that are used to transport flammable liquids and to upgrade or phase out existing tank cars. The measure passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate but died in the state House of Representatives.
O’Ban added that the state’s new supplemental operating budget directs state agencies to review safety measures and standards for rail transports and emergency responders. The Senate took up several additional measures to improve emergency preparedness for crude-oil transports during the 2014 legislative session. “Unfortunately key bills got sidetracked by partisan wrangling, but I am confident a bipartisan solution can be reached next year,” O’Ban said.
O’Ban is pleased the Association of American Railroads and private companies are taking action to update tank-car standards. “The industry is waking up to the importance of strengthening the reliability of tank-car safety,” said O’Ban. “What communities throughout Washington, the rail industry and emergency responders need now is more certainty and action on a federal level.”
According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, rail shipments of oil are expected to triple in 2014 to 55 million barrels, up from 17 million in 2013.