King County Council Expresses Concern About Oil Transportation

An oil trail in Seattle's Interbay

An oil trail in Seattle’s Interbay

You may remember that in 2013, the Metropolitan King County Council approved a motion expressing concern about the establishment of coal export terminals within Washington and Oregon, and rail transport of the coal. On June 23, 2014 they approved a motion which states concerns about the transportation of crude oil, and requests specific actions.

The motion requests that the King County Office of Emergency Management review and update King County’s incident response plans as well as the coordination and conduction of multijurisdictional emergency training. It also urges rail companies operating in the State of Washington to share cargo and logistics information related to petroleum, petroleum products and petroleum derivatives.

With the increased volume of oil being transported by rail from the Bakken Shale region in the last five years, the risk of accidents has grown. The potential devastation caused by accidents involving highly flammable crude oil is evident in several derailment accidents in the US and Canada in the past ten months. The environmental, economic and social costs are too high to ignore any longer.

According to estimates by Sightline, a non-profit research center focused on issues of sustainability, there are currently an average of 11.9 trains transporting Bakken crude oil each day in King County, and if there is expansion of refineries to the north in Anacortes and Ferndale, this number could almost double. Knowing how much crude oil is being transported, and its location, would help mitigate the impacts should a disaster occur.

The Council’s action ensures that we are prepared to respond to potential incidents related to the Bakken crude oil trains passing through our region every day. We need to take steps now so we are prepared to respond to oil train accidents like those we have seen both nationally and internationally. These events have triggered our need to focus on protecting our citizens, property, and the economy of King County by better preparing for the risks posed by the trains carrying oil in our own region.