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Joint energy committee hears update on crude oil transportation bill

by caprecord
oil train

Lawmakers got an update from several experts on Wednesday on the implementation of a oil transportation bill passed last year.

House Bill 1449 directed lawmakers to hold the joint energy committee meeting.

Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, was the prime sponsor of the bill. She said Wednesday’s meeting was timely due to the federal government’s recent spending bill repealing a 40-year ban on the export of crude oil.

“There continues to be great interest and concern as we’re transporting crude oil through our state and on our waters,” Farrell said.

Michael Davies of Kinder Morgan, an energy company operating a network of gas and petroleum products and pipelines, outlined the company’s plan for proposed 608-mile Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Canada. This is only pipeline that serves the west coast and helps feed the four major oil refineries in the state. The proposal creates a two-pipeline system that would end in British Columbia. He detailed the spill response services that are planned for the expansion, saying that the new plan would have the capacity to respond to a 2500-ton oil spill in six hours.

“Whether you like the additional oil transportation or not, one of the benefits of our project is that is has provided an opportunity to look at the regime for marine safety and look at the marine regime for spill response,” Davies said.

Johan Hellman of BNSF railroad said the company has invested in more track inspections that have reduced the number of incidents. He said that while there has been a 229 percent growth in petroleum transportation, it still remains “as a whole of our commodity mix under 5 percent.”

“Our focus is on safety regardless of the product,” Hellman said. “I’m pleased to report that in keeping with the responsibly of our common carrier commitments rail tends to be safer, much more efficient and more environmentally friendly then other forms of over-land transportation.”

Chad Bowechop of the Makah Tribe told members that preventing oil spills is crucial to preserving his tribe’s culture. His tribe has held extensive meetings with the Canadian First Nations on the safety of oil transportation.

“Makah’s invested extensive time and resources to addressing oil pollution and vessel traffic safety,” said Bowechop. He urged lawmakers to take the tribes into consideration as they move forward on other oil legislation.

Darcy Nonemacher of the Washington Environmental Council also urged lawmaker to continue addressing the oil transportation issue because the “environment is woven into everything.” Nonemacher said that projects such as  cleaning sites, salmon recovery or restoring the Puget Sound are at stake.

“As an environmental organization we make lots of investments and we want to make sure those investments are not undermined,” she said.

TVW taped the event. Watch the full hearing here.