Spokane City Leaders, Fire Chiefs Show Support for Cantwell Oil Train Legislation

City Council to consider resolution calling for passage of Crude-By-Rail Safety Act


SPOKANE – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Spokane Mayor David Condon, City Council President Ben Stuckart, and fire chiefs from Spokane and Spokane Valley to highlight the challenges of fighting fires caused by oil train derailments.

Up to 16 oil trains travel over elevated tracks through downtown Spokane each week.

Cantwell introduced the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 with Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The legislation would authorize $40 million for first responder training programs and establish grants for local communities to update emergency response plans.

“This legislation will help protect cities like Spokane from the types of fiery derailments we’ve seen in places like North Dakota, Illinois, and West Virginia,” Cantwell said. “Practically every major metropolitan area in our state is affected by this. That is why we want first responders and others to have the help they need to address this.”

A resolution endorsing Cantwell’s legislation will be introduced this week before the Spokane City Council, Council President Stuckart said.

“The City of Spokane strongly believes in expanding interstate commerce and building upon our history as a major exporter, but we must do it with the utmost respect for the safety of our citizens, our businesses and our environment,” Stuckart said. “The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act is a step in that direction, and I am proud to support it.”

Cantwell met with firefighters at Spokane Fire Station #4, which sits just across the street from a railroad overpass. The Senator got a close-up look at equipment that firefighters use when responding to incidents involving hazardous materials. Joining Cantwell were Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams and Spokane Valley Deputy Fire Chief Andy Hail.

“Quite frankly, we have significant concerns about our level of preparedness and our ability to respond to a significant derailment and release of product,” Spokane Valley Deputy Fire Chief Andy Hail said. “That is why we are very thankful that the legislation being pursued by Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray, Senator Feinstein and Senator Baldwin is addressing this concern from an emergency preparedness perspective.”

As a major rail hub of the Inland Northwest, Spokane County is the first point of entry for crude-by-rail into Washington state.

Spokane Mayor David Condon said: “I think it’s so key that the leadership of Senator Cantwell continues on this issue, and I think it’s appropriate that we continue to be on the forefront of addressing these issues affecting our citizens’ safety and what happens here in Spokane.”

The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act addresses emergency response to oil train accidents by providing:

• Resources for first responders: Authorizes $40 million for first responder training programs, establishes grants for local communities to update emergency response plans, and improves emergency notification procedures.

• Requirements for rail carriers: Requires railroads to develop comprehensive emergency response plans adequate to respond to large accidents involving fire or explosions.

• Increased Transparency: Requires railroads shipping volatile crude to provide information on crude-by-rail shipments to State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees along hazmat rail routes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates an average of 10 derailments annually over the next 20 years as crude-by-rail shipments grow, costing $4 billion.