I'm writing to ask you to support passage of the strong oil train emergency response measures included in House Bill 2858 or Senate Bill 99. Please oppose or work to amend HB 2209, which is scheduled for a hearing on February 7 in the House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Oregon has the weakest laws on the west coast related to oil train emergency response. S.B. 99 and H.B. 2858 would bring Oregon laws up to speed with California and Washington and provide much-needed protections for Oregon communities, waterways and protected areas such as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. H.B. 2209 is lacking key elements necessary to protect our communities and waterways from oil train derailments and spills. This bill should be amended to include the priorities listed below, which are already in S.B. 99 and H.B. 2858.
The Mosier oil train derailment and fire in 2016 clearly demonstrated the danger oil trains pose to communities and waterways along major rail routes throughout the state. These trains have already caused severe damage, and pose further risk to public safety, drinking water, and Columbia River salmon habitat.
Over the past five years, oil train derailments, explosions, and fires in North America have resulted in 47 deaths, evacuation of thousands of people, millions of gallons of oil spilled into waterways, and billions of dollars of property damage and environment destruction.
In the wake of Congress lifting the crude oil export ban in 2015, and the Trump administration repeal of a requirement for oil trains to use electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes by 2021, the need is more clear than ever for increased protections and safety measures regarding oil trains. Transporting oil by rail is inherently unsafe, but as long as it continues we must make sure Oregon is as prepared as possible for the next derailment and spill.
Please support H.B. 2858 and S.B. 99. and support the amendment of HB 2209 by including:
- Strong rule-making authority for the Environmental Quality Commission for review and approval of contingency plans and training for oil train-related spills.- Fees on railroads to improve oil spill response and establish funding for emergency preparedness.- Fees on railroads to improve oil spill response and establish funding for emergency preparedness.- Adequate insurance for railroads to cover true worst-case oil train derailments and oil spills. HB 2209 only requires insurance for damages resulting from a spill and fire of 15% of the capacity of an oil train.- 24-hour notice for oil trains passing through Oregon to allow emergency responders to prepare.
Please make sure H.B. 2209 is strengthened to include these priorities so that the health and safety of Oregonians isn't left vulnerable to oil derailment disasters because of incomplete laws.