The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has adopted new safety rules to address an increase in crude-by-rail (CBR) shipments in the state.
The rules mandate inspections of private grade crossings located on CBR routes; authorize "first-class" cities to opt into the UTC's crossing inspection program; and require railroads that haul crude to provide financial verification that they have the means to address a "reasonable" worst case oil spill, commission officials said in a press release issued on Tuesday.
Last year, the state enacted a law that funds additional federally certified rail inspectors, increases regulatory fees for railroads that haul crude and allows state inspectors to enter private shippers’ property without a federal escort. To take effect March 11, the new rules are the result of that legislation, UTC officials said.
The commission crafted the new rules with help from industry and environmental stakeholders, and feedback from the public.
"[We are taking] steps towards ensuring our railways are as safe as possible, but there is still work to do to safeguard the people and environment of Washington," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "The improvements made today to our state’s rail safety program show that we are serious about rail safety and will take what action we can on a state level to address the dangers posed by oil trains."
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has primary jurisdiction over CBR, and the UTC supports the administration's efforts by performing rail inspections and issuing notices and violations for non-compliance with federal railroad safety regulations on behalf of the FRA, commission officials said. The UTC also governs grade crossing safety.