We know what can happen. We have seen disaster first-hand. We know that when transporting anything by rail, the possibility of an accident is more a question of when than if. Knowing this, the towns and cities of Washington situated near a main rail corridor have a reasonable interest in what is passing through, and are right to wonder how we would respond to an accident. With 100-car oil trains moving Bakken crude through the state every day, concerns rightly multiply.
The state Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Telecommunications held a hearing in Spokane last week focusing on a bill by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, that would set up a study of safety, require shippers to disclose the type and amount of crude they transport, and pay a 5-cent-per-barrel tax to fund first responders. Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the states to review safety and oil train spill risk and report with recommendations by Oct. 1. The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered railroads to give first responders information on oil trains passing through their town, including when and how much. BNSF says it provides information to emergency agencies, upgraded much of its rolling stock with much safer tankers, and funded hundreds of millions in improvements to its tracks in Washington.