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Lawmakers’ Bills Would Regulate Oil Train Traffic, Spill Accountability

Washington state’s two chambers are cross-examining each other’s bills on oil transportation this week. Monday, Representatives held an executive session on the Senate’s proposal, and Tuesday Senators were scheduled to act on the House proposal. The House version poses stricter spill response measures.

Both bills would create new inspections for rail-lines, and impose a barrel-tax on oil delivered by train. They would also require that companies give the state advance notice of oil train schedules – the House wants daily notice, the Senate once per week. The real difference comes down to financial responsibility in the case of an oil spill. That’s a concern at the state Department of Ecology.

Kathy Taylor: “We have seen in the news various trains derailing, both in the US and in Canada, and if this happens in the state of Washington we want to make sure that the spill would be paid for by the responsible party and not by the taxpayers of the state.”

Kathy Taylor manages spill prevention and response for Ecology, and is advocating for the House bill. It would set up a state verification for oil handlers and owners to prove they could pay for a potential oil spill. The companies are required to now, but she says there are cases in which a company may be unable to pay, or file bankruptcy, and the cost would fall on taxpayers.

Oregon, Alaska, and California have similar verification programs. Oil trains didn’t arrive on Washington tracks until 2012.

Copyright 2015 Spokane Public Radio

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