Oregon lawmakers propose two laws to prevent, diminish crude-by-rail incidents

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Smoke billows from crude oil tank cars on fire in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Ore., in June 2016.
Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon lawmakers are proposing two separate laws that would prevent or lessen environmental damage caused by oil train incidents, the Associated Press reports.

One bill would require railroads to make oil spill prevention and emergency response plans on routes used by crude oil trains. The bill would also require railroads to carry a sufficient amount of insurance to address a worst-case scenario.

The other bill would prohibit Oregon lawmakers from funding new bulk coal or oil terminals.

Native Americans, environmental activists, and other advocates for the bill gathered this week to show their support. The proposed law is in response to a crude oil train derailment that took place in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Ore., in June 2016. The high profile incident prompted Oregon lawmakers to take a closer look at crude-by-rail shipments and current emergency protocols in the state.

Bill supporters say Oregon can’t stop oil trains from moving through the state, but they want railroads to be ready for future incidents.

Union Pacific representative Aaron Hunt wrote in a statement that the railroad wants to partner with the state to enhance rail safety. He also wrote that the state's proposed response timeline is invalid under federal law.

According to the bill, the railroad would have to send a qualified employee to a derailment scene within one hour of a confirmed spill. Legislators also want the railroad to have monitoring equipment and a trained equipment operator to assist first responders in 3 hours. In 8 hours, Oregon lawmakers want the railroad to be able to send out containment booms, boats, and other oil recovery systems.

This isn’t the first bill to be introduced by Oregon lawmakers concerning crude-by-rail shipments.

On July 13, 2016, little more than a month after the Mosier derailment, two Oregon senators introduced a rule that would require shippers or the railroad to reduce the volatility of crude-by-rail in tank cars and clarify the investigative and regulatory processes of the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration. The bill, known as the MOSIER Act, was first introduced on July 13.

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