Ecology works on oil movement rules

An oil train heads to the Tesoro refinery in July 2014.

The state Department of Ecology is developing new rules for transporting oil by train and pipeline.

The changes could require companies moving oil through the state to improve accident response plans and provide advanced notice about the movement of oil.

The changes could go into effect as early as 2016.

The rules will be a first step in implementing the 2015 Oil Transportation Safety Act the state Legislature passed this spring, according to an Ecology news release.

“These rules will help ensure public safety and environmental protection,” Ecology’s Spills Program manager Dale Jensen said in the release. “Emergency responders will have more information, better resources, and training to respond to incidents in a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated manner.”

Pipelines and marine vessels have been used to move oil to the state’s five refineries since the 1950s, according to Ecology. But it wasn’t until 2012 that delivery of crude oil by rail began, and it has since grown.

In response to the growing number of oil trains passing through the state, Ecology has worked on oil spill response planning. Over the past several years, the agency has been developing response plans focused on certain rivers that BNSF Railway tracks pass over.

So far, about a dozen plans have been completed for areas that include the Snake, Columbia and Spokane rivers.

The Skagit River is on the list of areas yet to have plans written, Ecology spokeswoman Lisa Copeland said in an email.

Parts of Skagit County’s shoreline, including Samish, Padilla and Fidalgo bays, are covered in the Northern Puget Sound response plan. Now the agency is working on filling in “gaps in the inland areas,” Copeland said.

The oil transport rules Ecology is working on would require refineries and terminals receiving crude oil by rail to provide weekly advance notice, and for pipelines to provide biannual reports.

The rules would also identify the types of information Ecology will disclose to the public, emergency responders, and tribal and local governments.

Other rules would outline requirements for how railroads transporting oil in bulk prepare for and respond to spills.

Several oil trains pass through Skagit County each week on the way to refineries in Whatcom County and to the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery.

That train traffic coupled with the Shell Puget Sound Refinery’s plans to also accept oil trains at its Anacortes facility has been a subject of local and regional concern over the past few years.

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— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199,

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