Will increase training funds in Governor's Recommended Budget
(Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber today released a report on oil train safety in Oregon that calls for an increase in state rail inspectors, additional funding for training, and improved reporting and transparency on crude oil and emergency response resources. Earlier this year, the Governor directed his staff and state agencies to complete a statewide review of oil train safety following a significant increase in the amount of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota being transported by rail nationwide and in Oregon.
"We’ve seen a dramatic increase in crude oil moving along Oregon’s railways over just a few short years," said Governor Kitzhaber. "I believe we need a targeted statewide response to ensure Oregon has the safest rail system possible. To that end, I've called on state agencies to dedicate resources to enhancing rail safety and improving our response capabilities in the event of an emergency. I've also called on railroads to improve communication with emergency responders, and I'll continue to push the federal government for guidelines and regulations that promote the safest transport possible."
The Governor's Office report comes just two days after the U.S. Department of Transportation released a set of nationwide draft rules for tougher tank car standards and lower speeds for trains carrying crude oil. The Governor has repeatedly called for both of these measures in communications with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx over the past six months.
The USDOT also released a report clarifying the characteristics of Bakken crude. After months of review, it said Bakken crude is "properly classified," but that it "tends to be more volatile and flammable than other crude oils." The federal agency further proposed in its draft rule that railroads hauling more than one million gallons of Bakken crude must provide appropriate notification to state emergency response coordinators.
The Governor commended the clarification from the federal agency but called for additional action. "If Bakken crude oil remains classified the same as other crude oil, then railroads should provide notification to emergency responders for all crude oil transported by rail. A million gallon threshold or point of origin shouldn’t keep emergency responders from knowing what hazardous material is traveling through their communities."
The Governor also called for an increase in the number of safety inspectors employed by the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division, a table-top exercise to be held later this year, and updates to Oregon’s rules and statutes to reflect the shift in commodities traveling by rail in the state. "With the increase in crude oil transport by rail, it’s reasonable to increase the number of inspectors we have. I’m directing ODOT to do just that," the Governor said.
Additionally, the Governor stressed the need for railroads to work with the Oregon State Fire Marshal to provide more detail on their caches of materials available to respond to a rail incident along their rail lines. The railroads provided preliminary information on material caches, but further work is needed with OSFM and emergency responders.
Kelly Bach, president of the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council, supported the Governor’s call for improved transparency and cooperation. "We can’t underestimate the importance of collaboration among emergency responders, railroads, and government agencies," Bach said. "This report charges everyone with a role in rail safety to step up and ensure that Oregon communities have the resources and information they need to adequately prepare and train."
The report stresses the need for funding to support emergency responder training and for more information from railroads so that state and local emergency coordinators can determine equipment requirements in areas where oil trains travel. The Governor's Recommended Budget for 2015-2017 will include additional funding for emergency responder training.
The full report is available on the Governor's website.