SEATTLE (AP) — Citing new safety and environmental risks as more crude oil moves by train through Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday directed state agencies to evaluate the safety of oil transport in the state.
The governor's directive would effectively speed up the timeline for a study already being conducted by the Department of Ecology and other agencies, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.
Ecology is already leading a study to analyze safety and environmental impacts of oil transport, after receiving $300,000 from the Legislature earlier this year.
The directive asks Ecology and other agencies to look at the risk of accidents along rail lines, assess the relative risk of Bakken crude oil compared to other forms of crude oil, and begin developing oil-spill response plans for affected counties. Ecology will submit budget recommendations and initial findings by Oct. 1.
The governor's order re-emphasizes the issue, Ecology spokeswoman Lisa Copeland said. "Nothing in the directive is new for us," she said.
The Northwest is seeing rapid changes in how crude oil is shipped. Several projects in Washington state would ship crude oil by train from North Dakota's Bakken region to proposed terminals in Vancouver and Grays Harbor. Inslee noted more crude oil also is being shipped from Alberta to British Columbia ports and traveling through state waters.
"The changing sources and transport of crude oil bring new risks to our communities along rail lines and to the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, and Puget Sound waters," Inslee said.
U.S. railroad companies were required by last week to disclose details about their crude-oil shipments.
BNSF Railway, Tacoma Rail and the Portland and Western Railroad have submitted such information to the state. Union Pacific Railroad told the state it does not move enough Bakken crude oil to meet the reporting threshold.