Oil train travels toward refineries in March Point

A 110-car-long oil train makes its way toward March Point in Anacortes in July 2017.

The state Department of Ecology seeks public input on proposed changes to expand the reporting requirements for companies in the state receiving crude oil by rail and pipeline.

The proposed changes would require facilities, including the Marathon and Shell refineries near Anacortes, to report the type and vapor pressure of the oil transported by rail, and the type and gravity of the oil transported by pipeline, among other changes.

The updated standards will help Ecology and emergency responders better understand the oil moved through the state and prepare for a potential spill, according to an Ecology news release.

Dave Byers, spill response section manager for Ecology, said higher vapor pressure oils pose a greater threat to public health and safety when released into the environment. A higher vapor pressure oil is the Bakken crude transported through the region by oil trains.

Gravity, a measure of an oil’s density, indicates whether an oil will float or sink in the water.

“Emergency planners can use the information to more thoroughly understand the hazards coming through a community so they can prepare for spills before spills happen,” Byers said.

The state began requiring companies to report crude oil movements in 2016, and is expanding the requirements at the direction of the Legislature.

A majority of the crude oil by rail transported through the state moves through Skagit County.

From April to June 2020, 10,283 crude oil railcars moved through the county, equivalent to 6,992,440 barrels or 293,682,480 gallons, according to a quarterly report from Ecology on crude oil movement by rail and pipeline.

The public can comment on the proposed changes via webinars on Oct. 7, 13 and 20.

Written comments can be submitted online or mailed to Kim Morley, Department of Ecology, Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504.

Comments will be accepted through Nov. 1.

The proposed changes can be viewed at ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/Laws-rules-rulemaking/Rulemaking/WAC-173-185.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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