The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides rules and regulations for spill reporting. This includes oil spills and hazardous material spills. However, these relate primarily to spills in navigable waters and adjoining shorelines. Spills that occur inland are just as large of a threat to natural resources. Thankfully, state regulations are starting to catch up to them.
In Washington, the state Department of Ecology issued new rules that require railroads to prove their preparedness for train-related oil spills. The new regulations require railroads to submit plans for how they will handle a spill should an oil train derail. After the state analyzes the plans, the railroads perform test runs to prove their readiness. This brings railroad oil spill state regulations up to par with other types of oil transportation such as ships.
Washington State is spearheading other train spill preparedness requirements as well. State regulations require oil refineries and terminals to notify proper personnel of oil train shipments—something no other state necessitates. The new train spill readiness rules take effect on October 1, 2016.
Other states are recognizing the need for train spill preparedness as well. In August of this year, officials in Memphis, Tennessee simulated an oil spill near a river and a rail yard. Oregon also considered implementing similar rules for train spills as Washington. However, industry lobbying prevented it from moving forward.
Recognizing the different spill response needs of trains from water vessels is a crucial first step to managing spills. To learn more about spill preparedness, contact the specialists at the Spill Center.