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Competing bills to address safety of oil transport

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm •  Published: February 10, 2014

Greg Hanon, a lobbyist who represents the Western States Petroleum Association, said Monday that he was concerned the confidentiality provision in the House bill wasn't strong enough. A representative from the oil industry group testified last week in favor of the Senate bill.

The safety of oil trains has come under increased scrutiny with recent fiery train derailments. In December, an oil train derailed and exploded near Casselton, N.D. The accident occurred about a mile outside the town, and no one was hurt, but about 2,000 people were evacuated to avoid toxic smoke.

In July, a runaway oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, near the Maine border, killing 47 people.

It's important to "make sure we're keeping up with it," Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, primary sponsor of Senate Bill 6524, said last week. "It's specifically designed to focus on prevention and make sure we have the resources available to provide response."

His bill also allocates $10 million from the general fund to implement the act and sets up a grant program for first responders.

Dale Jensen of the Ecology Department on Monday said both bills offer good measures to make the state's oil preparedness program even more robust, but the agency couldn't support either bill because they require money not included in the governor's budget.

BNSF Railway said last month that it shares detailed information with emergency responders in communities on its network and at the state level for safety reasons, but no longer makes that information public after 9/11 for security reasons.

Chances of either bill passing out of both chambers are uncertain because Democrats control the House and a predominantly Republican coalition steers the Senate.

"Both chambers understand the public appetite for getting something done," said Farrell, the House bill's main sponsor.