The state House has modified the Senate’s oil-transport bill to include a barrel tax on pipeline oil, as well as on oil shipped by rail or boat, to fund spill cleanups.
The state House on Tuesday passed its version of a bill that would impose new safety regulations on oil shipped through Washington by rail, boat and pipeline.
The modified version of a bill that cleared the Senate in March passed the House with a 58-40 bipartisan vote.
The Senate version extended a barrel tax to fund oil cleanups. In that version, the barrel tax is applied to all oil that enters Washington by train but exempts oil in pipelines. It would also require the Department of Ecology to review oil-spill response plans, establish a grant program for local emergency response and convene a panel to consider whether oil ships on the Columbia River and in Grays Harbor need tug escorts.
The version passed by the House expands the barrel tax to include pipeline oil shipments and requires railroads and other shippers to show they can pay to clean up spills.
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The House version also would authorize the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to conduct inspections of private rail crossings and increase overall funding for inspections.
“This bill represents an excellent compromise,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, its lead sponsor, “between protecting our natural environment, protecting the safety of our communities, protecting proprietary information and making sure that we are able to pay for the programs that we are putting forth.”
But the House version disappointed railroad-union representatives who said safety could be boosted by putting more workers on trains.
The Senate approved a measure that would have set a national precedent by requiring up two railroad workers in the rear of trains carrying 20 cars or more off crude oil or other hazardous cargo. The House version stripped that requirement from the bill.
“We are extremely disappointed because this legislation is about public safety and railroad safety, and had strong bipartisan support,” said Herb Krohn, state legislative director for SMART — Transportation Division, a union that represents some rail workers.
Kerry McHugh, a spokeswoman for the Washington Environmental Council, said the bill still retains other important safety measures that would help first responders prepare for a disaster.
“We would have preferred to see the crew manning included, but the bill is definitely a needed improvement,” McHugh said.