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Council News

Dembowski proposes motion to review risk of shipping oil by rail


Rise in shipments through populated communities, legislation calls for plan in case of spill or accident


The increase in the shipment of petroleum products by rail—and the potential consequences that can be created by an accident—is the focus behind legislation proposed by Metropolitan King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment (TrEE) Committee. Dembowski’s motion, introduced at the April 21 meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council, calls on King County’s Office of Emergency Management to review and revise the County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan to specifically address the risk from increased transport of Bakken formation petroleum by rail.

“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,” Dembowski said. “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.”

Dembowski’s motion proposes that King County—in conjunction with federal, state, and regional emergency response agencies, and with input from the rail carriers operating in Washington state, prepare a comprehensive emergency management plan to address rail transport of petroleum through King County. The motion also calls on the Office of Emergency Management to explore coordinating multijurisdictional 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 motion was referred to the Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee for discussion and action.

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