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Washington Governor Wants More Done To Ensure Oil Train Safety

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for a review of the possible safety risks posed by increased oil-by-rail traffic through the state. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is seeking a similar review in his state.
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Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for a review of the possible safety risks posed by increased oil-by-rail traffic through the state. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is seeking a similar review in his state.

SEATTLE — Oil trains moving through Washington state need upgrades, and slower speed limits. That’s part of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee response to a new state report released Wednesday about the risks of oil transport. The report also lays out some key recommendations for the Legislature

“Sobering” is how Inslee summed up this draft report. In it, the State Department of Ecology points out more oil is moving through Washington by pipeline and railways. And with that, comes a cascade of risks…to public health, safety, and the environment.

Inslee agreed more needs to be done to prevent a major spill or a tragic train derailment.

“When these things go, I don’t want to use the term bomb. But I don’t know what is a better metaphor," he said.

The metaphor holds, considering the inferno caused by an oil train explosion last year in the Canadian province of Quebec. It killed 47 people.

“This shouldn’t be too difficult for legislators to understand that we don’t intend to allow this risk to continue of oil blowing up in railroads next to Qwest Field and Safeco Field,” Inslee said.

The report recommends that state lawmakers add funds for a whole host of things, including:

More train inspectors, with beefed up authority

More oil spill response plans, equipment and training

Additional fees for railroads to pay for more safety inspections

The recommendations add up to more than $13 million for the next two-year budget.

Inslee said the report will help guide his legislative proposal for the upcoming session.

Beyond that, Inslee noted the feds regulate rail transport. And he’s called on them to lower the speed limits on oil trains and to move faster on required upgrades for old rail cars.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on these recommendations at meetings later this month.

This was first reported for

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Liz Jones
Year started with KUOW: 2006