OLYMPIA – The Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee will meet in Spokane on June 17 to discuss oil transportation safety.

The hearing will take place at Spokane City Council chambers at 10:30 a.m. and include public testimony on Senate Bill 6582.

Washington state has seen an enormous increase of oil moving by rail and water in recent years, including volatile crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada. State estimates show crude oil shipments by rail increased from zero in 2011 to 17 million barrels in 2013. The stark increase presents communities with a new risk for accidents and spills like recent derailments – including one in Quebec last year that killed 47 people.

In the early days of the 2014 legislative session, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, introduced the Oil Transportation Safety Act to provide common-sense measures to protect our communities. The chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee refused to give the bill a hearing.

(See timeline of legislative efforts to improve oil transportation safety).

“Here we are, nearly six months later, and people are still waiting for the right to know what is being moved through their towns, cities and waterways,” said Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, the ranking member on the committee. “If the chair had taken action, new regulations would be in place now and communities would know that safety standards are being updated to meet changing conditions.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to notify state officials about the volume, frequency and routes of trains carrying large amounts of crude oil, but two railroad companies are trying to prevent the public from receiving those details.

“I’m pleased the people in Eastern Washington will have the opportunity to be heard,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “The public has every right to know the amount and types of oil traveling through their city. Transparency is an important first step towards keeping our communities safe. “