New rail freight law in Wash. could hamper other states

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
Crude oil freight
North Dakota senators are not happy about a new law in the state of Washington dealing with crude oil freight.

The state of Washington recently passed a crude-by-rail law, and there is at least one neighboring state that sees it as a major hazard.

Three U.S. senators from North Dakota—John Hoeven, Kevin Cramer and Kelly Armstrong—are reaching out to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in the hopes the new rule could be overturned.

“Washington State’s law will limit our energy industry’s ability to access safe and reliable transportation for this vital commodity, impacting good-paying jobs in our state and undermining our nation’s energy security,” the three lawmakers said in a joint statement. “At the same time, instead of getting light, sweet Bakken crude [from North Dakota], refineries in the Pacific Northwest will have to rely on foreign crude shipped by barge, which is less environmentally sound.”

The senator trio also said the USDOT has the primary authority over crude oil that ships across state lines.

The measure that was signed into law in Washington deals with stricter vapor pressure limits for the transport of crude oil by trains, requiring crude oil being delivered in the state to meet a 9-psi Reid Vapor Pressure. The national guideline for stable crude oil is 14.7 psi. The Washington rule would force companies looking to unload or store oil in the state to put it through extra processing.

Lawmakers say the 9-psi requirement is simply not good science, and will not improve the safety of workers on the track.

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Shortline/Regional, Yards & Terminals
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