Legislature reaches compromise on oil-train safety bill, finishes regular session


Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, chair of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

OLYMPIA… Lawmakers reached compromise on a major oil-train safety bill Friday, culminating two years of work on a high-profile issue, and finishing their 2015 regular session on a note of accomplishment. The state Senate passed the bill 46-0 and the House quickly concurred 95-1, sending the measure to the governor’s desk.

“This vote gives us the strongest oil-train safety legislation in any of these 50 states,” said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. “The public is rightly concerned about this issue as oil production increases in this country. This bill is really about energy independence done safe and done right.

“I’m glad we were able to finish our regular session by settling one of the biggest issues before us this year. Reaching compromise on this issue required hard work by both parties. And it takes a big item off the table for when we return next week to begin our special session.”

The compromise legislation takes the form of House Bill 1449, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. It allocates money to equip emergency-response agencies for oil spills along the tracks and for other rail accidents involving spills of hazardous materials. It requires local agencies to plan for accidents, and it provide secure seven-day advance notice of rail shipments to first responders.

The bill also allows the state Pilotage Commission to impose new regulations on the marine transportation of crude oil on Grays Harbor, should a terminal be located there, and it establishes a workgroup to study possible marine regulation on the Columbia River.

Ericksen, who led Senate negotiations on the issue, noted high public interest in oil-by-rail safety. Though regulation of interstate railroad transportation is a federal responsibility, he said there is much the state can do to improve preparedness for emergencies. “With this bill we emphasize preparedness along the tracks, from the state line to the oil refineries of Puget Sound,” he said. “No state in this country has done more to protect the safety of its citizens.

“This is a measure we all can be proud of, and I want to thank Rep. Farrell for her hard work on this issue. This demonstrates we can find a way to reach agreement and compromise, and I hope we can learn from that in the special session that begins shortly.”