House oil train bill advances
at 5:13pm by John Stang
Split along party lines, the House Finance Committee recommended 9-to-7 Wednesday that the full House pass an oil train safety bill.
“Just in the last two weeks, we’ve seen two serious explosions,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien.
A Feb. 14 oil train derailment in Ontario injured no one, but fires took almost a week to burn out in the sub-zero temperatures. On Feb. 16, 27 cars on a 109-car oil train derailed in West Virginia, causing fire-balling explosions. And on July 24, three oil cars on a 100-tanker-car train derailed under Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge, but no injuries nor fire occurred.
“The derailment in my legislative district was extremely upsetting to my constituents and is a symbolic representation of the risks,” said committee chair Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.
The committee’s Republicans said they wanted to support the House oil transportation bill, but lost on three attempts to amend it. Two attempts were to lighten proposed regulations on tug boats working with oil-tanker ships. The third defeated attempt was to eliminate a proposed six cents tax increase on each 42-gallon barrel. The money would manage the state’s expanded oil safety programs. The current tax is four cents a barrel.
“A 250 percent tax increase is unwarranted. … Creating a huge slush fund is unacceptable,” argued Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee. Fitzgibbon countered that the tax increase would ensure that the oil safety program won’t have to raid other funds for money in the future.
This oil transportation bill was introduced by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. The House Environment Committee has already recommended — along party lines — that the House pass the bill. If the House passes Farrell’s bill, it will likely run into a bill sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, that is working its way through the Senate.
Farrell’s bill covers a long list of oil transportation safety matters — including spill-related emergency training and responses, tugboat regulations regarding oil shipping in Washington’s waters, information to be provided to emergency agencies. Ericksen’s bill is similar, but has no public disclosure requirements about planned shipments, as does the Farrell’s bill. And it addresses only oil transportation by rail.