Take Action: Defend Washington’s right to protect our people and waterways

Stand up to the Trump Administration and protect Washington against dangerous crude oil trains

To Whom It May Concern: 

I am writing today in response to the invitation to comment on North Dakota and Montana’s request for an administrative determination on whether Washington State is allowed to have rules relating to the volatility of crude oil received in the state. I ask that PHMSA deny the petition because Washington State is allowed to protect human health and safety from this imminent threat.

Washington State has five refineries and is deeply impacted by the safety of oil transportation. The rail line that carries mile plus long unit oil trains of dangerous crude oil travels alongside the iconic Columbia River with dangerously threatened salmon, through hundreds of towns, underneath downtown Seattle, and over mighty salmon rivers like the Skagit River. These trains are carrying known explosives – we have seen oil trains derail, catch fire and put at risk communities all across North America. Starting in 2013, when an oil train accident killed 47 people and leveled the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Rather than acting to protect communities, the federal government instead allowed the oil industry to continue with this dangerous use of oil trains and we have now seen many, many derailments and explosions across the country, including in 2016, when a Bakken crude oil train derailed and burned in our backyard, in the town of Mosier, Oregon.

We don’t need to wait for another disaster to act.  In the wake of the dramatic increase of volatile unit trains of crude oil traveling to these refineries, Washington State lawfully passed a requirement limiting the volatility of the crude oil it receives. The bill, SB 5579, was signed into law on May 9th by Governor Inslee. This law does not harm North Dakota or Montana. 

The Washington’s requirement applies only at new facilities (those built after Jan. 1, 2019) and existing facilities if the volume of oil received by train significantly increases (two years after a greater than 10% increase in crude oil volumes from 2018).  The law also requires that the facilities receiving crude oil provide the state with detailed, timely information about the crude they will receive—vital information for emergency responders to have in case of an accident.

North Dakota and Montana claim that Washington has unfairly targeted Bakken oil, the crude oil that comes from their states.  Yet Bakken oil is admittedly highly explosive, and treating the crude oil (reducing its vapor pressure) before loading into tank cars would make rail traffic safer for rail line communities across the West and would not be very expensive.

North Dakota and Montana even object to the requirements for safety information reporting, protesting that too much information will be confusing.  But emergency responders should have all the information available on the kinds of oil being carried by these trains in advance of an accident.  

North Dakota and Montana should not be able to block Washington from getting the best and most complete information to its firefighters, EMTs and other emergency responders.

I ask that you deny this request by North Dakota and Montana and ensure that the health and safety is protected.


This year, Washington State Legislature took a bold step forward to protect our communities and waterways against dangerous crude oil trains by requiring oil trains to meet simple safety requirements. Now, the Trump Administration is putting the oil industry first and trying to gut this new law. 

We’ve seen the horrifying pictures of derailed tank cars, burning oil, and mushroom clouds of fire and smoke from oil train explosions. In 2016, a Bakken crude oil train derailed and burned in our backyard in the town of Mosier, Oregon.

Washington is home to five oil refineries, and Bakken oil trains cross our state almost every day. We cannot wait for another disaster to act.

Speak up today for Washington’s right to protect the public from dangerous crude oil trains!