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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

New oil train rule will give emergency responders advance notice of shipments

From staff reports

Emergency responders in Spokane and other Washington communities along oil train routes will receive advance notice of shipments starting Oct. 1.

Terminals, refineries and other facilities that receive crude oil by rail must begin notifying the state Department of Ecology in advance of shipments under a rule adopted this week. The state will relay the information to local emergency responders.

“In the wake of recent oil train disasters, Washington is moving quickly to improve public safety and protect our natural resources,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “This rule will assure that our emergency responders get advance notice before oil train shipments arrive in their communities.”

An average of two to three oil trains daily carry flammable crude from the Bakken oil fields through Spokane and Spokane Valley en route to Western Washington. Last month, a city consultant told state officials that an oil train derailment and fire in downtown Spokane would pose severe challenges for emergency responders, including the possibility of train cars falling from elevated tracks onto buildings and spilled oil reaching the Spokane River.

Some of the information about oil train shipments will be available to the public. The Ecology Department will publish quarterly reports with summaries of oil train movements.

Oil pipeline operators also are subject to the rule. Twice a year, they’ll have to report information about crude oil volumes and where the oil originated.

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

The rule represents the first real-time reporting of oil shipments through Washington. A 2014 emergency order by the U.S. Department of Transportation required railroads transporting Bakken crude oil in volumes greater than 1 million gallons to provide information to state emergency response commissions about estimated volumes and train frequencies.

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