West Coast states meet to share spill-response efforts

  • By PHUONG LE
  • Tuesday, June 21, 2016 9:40pm
  • News

SEATTLE — Washington and Oregon environmental regulators said Tuesday that regional coordination and planning exercises such as drills aided in their response to the fiery train derailment along the Columbia River earlier this month.

The Northwest officials briefed their counterparts from other states on the June 3 train accident in Mosier, Oregon, at the annual meeting of the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force in Seattle.

The task force — consisting of members from British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii — collects and shares data on oil spills, works together on oil spill prevention projects and promotes regulatory safeguards.

They were in Seattle to share knowledge and update each other on their spill response programs and other projects.

Dale Jensen, Washington’s Ecology spills program manager, says the Oregon derailment is a reminder of how vulnerable the region is to oil spills and underscores the need for states and federal agencies to continue to work together to improve spill prevention and response.

In British Columbia, regulators said they have effectively used drones to assess the extent of a tanker truck crash that spilled diesel fuel near Mount Robson National Park. Wes Shoemaker, Deputy Minister of British Columbia Ministry of Environment, said drones can be an effective tool to assess downstream effects of a spill.

Bruce Gilles, who manages the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s cleanup and emergency response program, told the meeting that “we couldn’t have been luckier” during the Oregon derailment.

Strong winds typically blow through the Columbia River Gorge but not that day the trains derailed, with four cars catching fire. He also said that there are sections of the railroad that runs adjacent to the river, but the train crashed in an area that was farther away from the river.

Just several months earlier, more than a dozen agencies participated in a national oil-spill response drill that was based on a scenario where a landslide had caused a 100-unit oil train to spill about 450,000 gallons of oil into the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon.

Jensen highlighted the dramatic changes in the way oil is shipped through Washington state, noting an uptick in rail transport of oil. In 2011, no Bakken crude oil was shipped by rail compared with about 2.55 billion gallons in 2015.

Washington lawmakers last year passed legislation requiring railroads to come up with oil spill contingency plans; it also require facilities that receive oil to provide the state with advance notice of oil shipments. New rules are expected later this year.

California also has a similar oil spill contingency planning requirement for railroads.

“What we get out of this is new knowledge,” Jensen said. “We’re always looking ahead. We’re always anticipating what the potential is and working very, very hard to be as prepared as we can.”

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

The Kenai River flows near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. The Riverfront Redevelopment project will impact much of Soldotna’s riverside areas downstream to the bridge. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna riverfront redevelopment planning moves forward

Soldotna City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a project manager to shepherd the Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna on Wednesday.
Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

Aleutian Airways logo. Photo courtesy of Aleutian Airways
Aleutian airways to halt Homer service during runway project

Service will be suspended beginning April 15

tease
Homer pedestrian pathway project selected for federal funding

The project will create greater nonmotorized transportation access in Homer

Vendors speak to attendees of the Kenai Peninsula Job and Career Fair in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Job Fair draws employers, seekers

The Job Center has options and opportunities to connect people with training, coaching and funding

Vanessa Uei checks in guests during a grand opening for AK Wellness & Tanning in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
AK Wellness & Tanning holds grand opening for new location

The expanded location is along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai

The Kenai Senior Center’s dining space is readied for the annual March for Meals fundraiser in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Photo by Ken Aaron, provided by Kenai Senior Center)
March for Meals raises funds to support senior food service

The local event was organized by Kenai Senior Connection and hosted at the Kenai Senior Center

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
An array of solar panels stand in the sunlight at Whistle Hill in Soldotna on Sunday.
Federal grant awarded for Whistle Hill solar project

The annual production of the completed system is estimated to be enough electricity to power 19 homes

Most Read