King County Council passes measure to address risk of oil trains

The King County Council on Monday unanimously passed legislation directing emergency officials to study the risks of transporting oil products by rail and to prepare for possible accidents.

“We have seen the tragic results of catastrophic oil train derailments in other regions. With shipments of Bakken formation crude on the rise through King County, we must be prepared,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, author of the motion and chairman of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, in a media release. “It is important that we are ready to respond to any disaster that may threaten lives, our environment, or cause major disruption to our regional economy. King County is home to the spine of our regional rail infrastructure, which is critically important to our shipping and manufacturing sectors.”

“The action we took today ensures that we are prepared to respond to potential incidents related to the Bakken crude oil trains passing through our region every day,” said Council Chairman Larry Phillips. “We need to take steps now so we are prepared to respond to oil train accidents like those we have seen both nationally and internationally. These events have triggered our need to focus on protecting our citizens, property, and the economy of King County by better preparing for the risks posed by the trains carrying oil in our own region.”

The adopted motion calls on King County’s Office of Emergency Management to review and revise the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan—in consultation with federal, state, and regional emergency response agencies, and with input from the rail carriers operating in Washington State—to specifically address the risk from increased transport of Bakken formation petroleum by rail through King County.

The motion also calls on the Office of Emergency Management to explore coordinating multi-jurisdictional emergency preparedness training activities, to prepare local first responders to safely handle any derailment, accidental spill or fire.

Rail carriers currently transport millions of barrels of oil a year through King County, on its way to refineries in northwest Washington. As one of the closest options for refining Bakken formation petroleum, Washington is expected to continue to see high volumes of oil transported by rail.

The Kent City Council passed a similar measure on June 17.

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