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Oil trains moved 14 million barrels of crude through Washington in fourth quarter

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 19, 2017

An oil train crosses Sprague Avenue and Division Street on March 8, 2016 in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
An oil train crosses Sprague Avenue and Division Street on March 8, 2016 in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

New Washington rules require railroads to report how much crude oil is shipped by train through the state.

The first results, released Thursday, provide a snapshot of recent traffic: Oil trains transported about 14.7 million barrels of crude through Washington in the fourth quarter of 2016. On average, that was about 1 million barrels of crude weekly.

Trains began shipping crude oil through Washington in 2012, and volumes have continued to grow.

Most of the oil trains enter the state from Idaho and travel through Spokane en route to oil refineries in Western Washington. Some of the oil also passes through Bellingham from trains originating in Canada.

The trains travel through some of the state’s most populous areas and along the Columbia River.

Oil train safety has been in the national spotlight following accidents such as the fiery derailment in 2013 that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, and the June 2016 derailment of a Union-Pacific train that spilled 42,000 gallons of oil near Mosier, Oregon.

The state’s new rule requires facilities that receive crude oil by rail to notify the state in advance. Information about shipments is shared with emergency managers in areas along the route. The Department of Ecology later publishes quarterly reports summarizing the volumes.

The rule also applies to pipelines, which report twice yearly.

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