Washington Legislature Fails To Pass Comprehensive Oil Train Legislation

Mar 18, 2014

More oil is moving through Washington state from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That has many concerned about oil train safety. The oil has proven extremely flammable, causing several explosions in North America.

State legislators on both sides of the aisle introduced bills to address the concerns.

But the session ended last week without a compromise.

The bills ranged from a barrel tax on oil coming into the state by rail to greater transparency from oil companies.

The Democrats introduced a bill that passed out of the House.

It would have required oil companies to provide quarterly reports on how much oil is moving through the state and what route it’s taking.

That bill didn’t get a hearing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senator Kevin Ranker is a Democrat from Orcas Island.

“That bill had the votes to pass if it had even been given a chance to vote," said Ranker.  "And we’ve seen this time and time again from this republican coalition in the senate. They won’t even give it the time of day, it never gets the chance to see daylight.”

Instead, Republicans in the Senate introduced their own set of bills. Republican Rodney Tom of Medina introduced a bill that would have charged a 5 cent per barrel tax for oil that comes into the state by rail.

Senator Doug Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale, introduced a different bill that would have required companies share information about oil moving through the state. It would have also provided funding for local governments to buy spill response equipment. Democrats said it was inadequate.

But Ericksen says the Democrats are to blame for his bill not passing.

“So they had all these amendments drafted up in order to kill the bill," said Ericksen.  "You can love a bill to death, you can try to kill it by load it up with too many amendments and that’s what they were able to do in the divided legislature.”

Amendments or not, the Republicans in the Senate did not bring any oil legislation to the floor for a vote.

The legislature did pass a supplemental budget that provides $300,000 for more study of the oil train issue.

Copyright 2014 KUOW