Murray, O’Brien call for scrutiny on oil train transport plan

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City of Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray
Councilmember Mike O’Brien

Murray, O’Brien call for scrutiny on oil train transport plan
City leaders calls for disclosure, risk assessment and updated response plans to ensure public safety and environmental protection

SEATTLEMayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Mike O’Brien urge the adoption of a new resolution calling for increased scrutiny and new regulations for a proposal to increase oil exports by rail through Seattle. The resolution calls for local, state and federal agencies to work together and urges disclosure, risk assessments and emergency response plans in preparation for increased risks associated with oil train transport through Seattle.

The resolution will be discussed and possibly come to a committee vote in the Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee today, Friday, February 21 at 2pm in Council Chambers. 

"The safety of our city and state are what is ultimately important here," said Murray "It’s important to know what’s travelling through our area to maintain that safety. This resolution will help us make informed choices about oil train transportation to protect our residents."

"Obviously the public safety concerns are critical, but we must also prepare for the environmental impacts of potential oil spills," said O’Brien, Chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. "I continue to have grave concerns over what this drastic expansion in fossil fuel exports would mean for climate change."

Resolution 31504 includes five key components:

  • First, it urges the state legislature to require disclosure of the volumes, types of petroleum products, routes and frequency of transport.
  • Second, it asks the federal government to strengthen regulations around what type of tank car can be used for petroleum transport.
  • Third, it encourages state and local agencies to assess the environmental, economic, safety and traffic impacts of oil train transport through the city.
  • Fourth, it requests railroad companies to consider restrictions on the shipments of petroleum through the city until local and state authorities can establish public safety and environmental protection standards.
  • Finally, the resolution calls on the Seattle Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management to update the City’s incidence response plans for the increasing risks associated with petroleum transport by rail through the city.

"Recent oil train derailments highlight the risky business of moving oil through our cities. Yet local governments, first responders, and the public lack basic information on the amount, the type, and ways in which oil is moving through their towns," said Rebecca Ponzio of Washington Environmental Council. "This is an unacceptable risk when communities like Seattle have oil trains going underneath downtown."

"Our research suggests that oil is far and away the fastest growing type of freight hauled by rail, and that the volume of oil we are talking about potentially shipping through the Northwest would be nearly as much as the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline," said Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute.

The cities of Spokane and Bellingham, as well as Whatcom Counties have passed similar resolutions. If adopted in committee today, the recommendation will go on to Full Council for adoption as early as March 3. 

[View in Council Newsroom]