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Oil transportation in Washington

Every year, 20 billion gallons of oil are transported through Washington by vessel, rail, and pipeline, posing significant risk of environmental damage. The risks associated with all modes of oil transportation and handling require a robust state program of prevention, preparedness, and response in order to protect our communities, environment, and economy.

First-ever railroad oil spill response plan approved in Washington

On March 1, we approved the state’s first oil spill response plan for the largest railroad operating in Washington, BNSF Railway Company. With the approved plan, they are better prepared to respond to an oil spill.

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Washington cares about oil transportation safety

Since the 2005 Legislature directed Ecology to set a zero-spills goal, the agency has reached significant milestones. This is reflected in one of the lowest spill rates in the nation, according to U.S. Coast Guard data, and a drill program that is a model for other states. In 2015, Governor Inslee signed the Oil Transportation Safety Act to help protect Washington from the risks associated with transporting oil.

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Oil transportation risk assessments

Washington is experiencing rapid changes in the types of crude oils that are moving through the state, the methods used for oil transportation, and the locations where crude is moved. A major oil spill or fire could have severe consequences to public safety, the environment, local economies, and overall quality of life.

Our risk assessments help prepare and plan for response to oil-related incidents that could impact our major waterways. By evaluating when and how oil moves through the state and the associated risks, we can make recommendations for cost-effective spill prevention measures while protecting public health and safety, the state's economy, and the environment.

Grays Harbor

Grays Harbor Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment (GHVTRA)

We received funding in the 2017-2019 biennium to conduct a vessel traffic risk assessment for Grays Harbor. This builds on our previous work for the Columbia River, Salish Sea, and the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study. The purpose for doing this type of study is to assess:
  • Baseline and changing oil spill risks, including identifying measures that could help reduce the risks of oil spills.
  • Oil spill response preparedness, including identifying baseline response capability.
This study provides us with the opportunity to:
  • Document current baseline of oil spill prevention and preparedness in Grays Harbor.
  • Develop regionally specific recommendations for improvement.

Public participation opportunities

Questions? Contact Brian Kirk at 425-649-7292 or brian.kirk@ecy.wa.gov.

Columbia River Salish Sea
A large vessel in the water, an oil train crossing a river on a bridge, and a closeup of oil train cars on tracks.

2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study

We received one-time funding in 2014 to conduct a Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study. The study analyzed the risks to public health and safety, and the environmental impacts associated with the transport of oil in Washington state.

We worked with several partners to complete the study including, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Emergency Management Division, tribes, other federal, state, and local agencies, informal and formal public and private committees, organizations, industry, and the public.

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