The state House of Representatives took a big step early Tuesday morning with approval of an amended version of House Bill 2347, which seeks to reduce the risk of catastrophic oil spills from ships and trains. Now it falls to the state Senate, and its Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, to keep this important legislation moving.
Tracking the growing volumes of oil shipped through the state is necessary for local first-responders to be ready in the case of spills and resulting emergencies. Recent tragedies in North Dakota, Alabama, Alberta and Quebec reinforce the importance of being prepared for the worst.
State Rep. Jessyn Farrell’s legislation directs the state to gather and refineries to provide information about volumes of oil, types of oil, and the routes of vessels and trains. As the Democrat from Lake Forest Park notes, this will fill in gaps of knowledge about current routes and traffic on the Columbia River, around Grays Harbor and in Puget Sound.
The legislation empowers the state Department of Ecology to begin a study in 2014. A last-minute amendment would postpone any rule making inquiries until there is a permitted facility.
Communities need to be fully informed of the risks that go with the transport of vast quantities of oil. Local public-safety agencies need to know the nature of the hazards they might face. The legislation would gather basic information in response to the known risks that have claimed lives and destroyed property.