OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Legislature passed a measure Friday to improve the safety of oil transportation amid a sharp increase in the number of oil-carrying freight trains in the state.
Lawmakers reached a compromise on the last day of the regular legislative session to resolve differences between competing versions that earlier cleared the Senate and House.
The Senate voted 46-0 and the House 95-1 on House bill 1449, which now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for consideration.
“It is a step forward in a meaningful sense,” Inslee said.
The compromise includes some provisions that Inslee and Democrats had pushed for, including requiring railroads to show they can pay to clean up oil spills.
It extends a barrel tax on boat-transported oil to railroads to help pay for oil spill response but doesn’t cover pipelines. It also does not include marine protections that environmental groups had sought for oil shipments via the Puget Sound.
The bill requires railroads to provide weekly notice to first responders of the type and volume of oil shipped. That information will be made public on a quarterly basis.
“It’s no secret to say that one of those chambers and one of those parties are much more solicitous of the tender feelings of the oil and gas industry,” Inslee said, speaking of the politically divided Legislature where Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate. “And that’s impacted what we’ve been able to get through the Senate.”
Lead sponsors of the bill in the House and Senate each spoke about the extensive negotiations involved in getting the bill passed, with Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, calling it “three-fourths of a good idea” even though it did not address every concern about oil safety.
The bill passed with virtually no criticism in either chamber.
“This bill isn’t going to prevent explosions or accidents along the rail lines,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. “But it is going to make our rail lines safer.”