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New Rule Requires Notice When Transporting Oil


September 28, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Pipeline Safety , New Legislation and Regulations

New Rule Requires Notice When Transporting Oil

Photo credit: SounderBruce.

It will come as little surprise to local governments located along rail lines that the transportation of crude oil by rail can be risky. In order to mitigate some of these risks, the Department of Ecology (DOE) recently adopted a new regulation, chapter 173-185 WAC, requiring that the DOE receive advance notification when crude oil is moved to certain facilities in the state by railroad car, as well as biannual reports from the owners of certain oil transmission pipelines regarding the volume of crude oil transported through their pipelines. Local governments can, upon request, get this information from the DOE.

Why Adopt a New Regulation?

In 2015, the Legislature adopted the Oil Transportation Safety Act (OTSA), which declared that the “movement of crude oil through rail corridors and over Washington waters creates safety and environmental risks” for Washington’s communities located along rail lines. As part of the OTSA, the Legislature adopted RCW 90.56.565, which created reporting requirements related to oil transport and tasked the DOE with adopting rules (i.e., the new regulation) to implement the requirements. The stated purpose of the new regulation is to enhance oil transportation safety in Washington by providing information on crude oil movements within the state to both emergency responders and the public.

Overview of the New Reporting Requirements

For shipments to facilities by railroad car, the notice must be given once a week in advance of the following week’s shipments and include information on the route taken to the facility, as well as the scheduled time, location, volume, gravity, and originating region of the crude oil received. For purposes of the new regulation, the term “facility” is defined, in part, to mean:

any structure, group of structures, equipment, pipeline, or device, other than a vessel, located on or near the navigable waters of the state that transfers oil in bulk to or from a tank vessel or pipeline, that is used for producing, storing, handling, transferring, processing, or transporting oil in bulk.

Transmission pipeline reports are due on July 31 and December 31 of each year and will contain information from the previous six months. The reports must include information on the volume of crude oil they transported through the state and the originating state or province of the oil.

In order to enhance oil transportation safety in Washington and protect public safety and the environment, the DOE will provide the reported information to the Emergency Management Division of the State Military Department and, on request, to county, city, tribal, port, or other local government emergency response agencies.

If a local government requests to receive the information, it's important to note that any information received that contains proprietary, commercial, or financial information may not be disclosed to the public or to nongovernmental entities unless that information is aggregated.

When do the Requirements Come into Effect?

The new regulation is effective October 1, 2016. Reporting requirements for owners and operators of facilities in operation at the time the regulation was adopted (August 24, 2016) must meet the advance notice requirements on October 1. Owners and operators of new facilities (i.e., those commencing operations after August 24, 2016) must meet the requirements immediately upon beginning operations in the state.

Owners and operators of transmission pipelines in operation on August 24, 2016 must also meet the biannual notice requirements on October 1 and submit their first biannual notice by January 31, 2017. Owners and operators of new transmission pipelines—again, those commencing operations after August 24, 2016—must meet the biannual notice requirements immediately upon beginning operations in the state.

Have a question or comment about this information? Want to see a blog post on another topic? Let me know below or contact me directly at psullivan@mrsc.org.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul has worked with local governments since 1974 and has authored MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations. He also provides training on the Open Public Meetings Act.

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