Oil-train safety emerges as hot environmental issue in Olympia

The Seattle TimesFebruary 18, 2014 

The fight over coal trains, billed as the Pacific Northwest’s biggest environment debate in decades, is so 2013. The new hot topic is oil transportation.

Fueled by statistics showing that more oil spilled in the United States last year than in the 37 previous years combined — along with recent oil-train explosions — state lawmakers from both parties and chambers are pushing for quick action.

“I think we all agree that this is an important issue for us to address to protect our citizens,” said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who chairs the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee.

But Republicans and Democrats support differing proposals for how to do so, setting up a potential collision in the divided Legislature.

Both sides want the state Department of Ecology to speed up its disaster planning for derailment of an oil train, an increasingly used method of transport.

But Democrats also want to require energy companies to disclose how much oil they’re sending on trains through the state, and what route it’s traveling. Republicans say that would endanger national security and the competitive nature of the business.

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