New Legislation Calls For Transparency On Oil Moving Through Washington

Jan 23, 2014

Lawmakers in Olympia Wednesday held a hearing on a new bill concerning oil transport. More oil is moving into terminals and refineries in the state from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That has politicians calling for oil companies to be more transparent.

The hearing for House Bill 2347 was so popular that people were forced to wait outside the packed room. The new bill would require oil companies to file weekly reports with the state Department of Ecology. They would have to tell Ecology how much oil, what kind of oil, how it’s being transported and what route it’s traveling through the state. Right now oil companies aren’t required to share any specific information with state agencies about how much oil is traveling the railways. Johan Hellman says it should stay that way. Hellman is with BNSF Railway. BNSF is the company delivering Bakken oil to Washington refineries right now.

“You can imagine if you’re publicizing information about specific routes, specific volumes, locations where those are being shipped it does provide a tremendous security concern.” said Hellman

Hellman also said the oil companies don’t want to share that information for competitive purposes. The US Department of Transportation has classified Bakken oil as a hazardous material because it catches fire and explodes at much lower temperatures than previously thought. Several city and county representatives voiced support for the bill. Ben Stuckart is president of the Spokane city council.

"If we look at the elevated track lines that go through Spokane we’re in a situation where our town would be split in half if we look at a derailment. 4:00 I think we’re taking bombs through our cities when you look at Spokane.” said Stuckart

Oil trains currently run through Spokane and along the Columbia River. Then up the I-5 corridor, passing through other towns and cities along their route. More oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the last four decades combined. That’s according to an analysis of federal data by McClatchyDC. The bill could be amended before passing out of committee. No Republicans have signed on to support the bill.

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