Washington Legislature Fails To Pass Any Oil Train Legislation

Mar 18, 2014
Originally published on March 17, 2014 8:00 pm

SEATTLE -- More oil is moving through Washington state from the Bakken oil fields, putting public pressure on elected officials to pass laws protecting public health and the environment.

Bakken oil from North Dakota and Montana has proven extremely flammable, causing several explosions in North America, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec last July.

But despite rising public concern, The Washington Legislature's Republicans and Democrats couldn't get together to pass a single piece of legislation specifically relating to oil trains or vessels, despite the introduction of several bills from both sides of the aisle.

The bills ranged from a tax on oil coming into the state by rail to greater transparency from oil companies.

It would have required oil companies to provide quarterly reports on how much oil is moving through the state and what route it’s taking. It would also have required tug escorts for oil tankers in Washington waters.

“That bill had the votes to pass if it had even been given a chance to vote," said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. "And we’ve seen this time and time again from this Republican coalition in the Senate. They won’t even give it the time of day. It never gets the chance to see daylight.”

Instead, Republicans in the Senate introduced their own set of bills. Republican Rodney Tom of Medina introduced a bill that would have charged a 5-cent per-barrel tax for oil that comes into the state by rail.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, introduced a bill that, like the Democrat-backed bill in the House, would have required companies share information about oil moving through the state. It would have also provided funding for local governments to buy spill response equipment. Democrats said it was inadequate.

Amendments or not, the Republicans in the Senate did not bring any oil legislation to the floor for a vote.

The Legislature did pass a supplemental budget that provides $300,000 for more study of the oil train issue.

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