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Following derailment in Mosier last month, Senators sent a letter calling on DOT to release new rules on oil spill response plans immediately 

Today, DOT released rules expanding comprehensive spill response plans for rail carriers to help protect communities and the environment

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, applauded the release of new oil spill response rules for rail carriers by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The proposed rules will be available for public comment, and the Senators will push DOT to finalize the rules as quickly as possible. Following the derailment of sixteen tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil near Mosier, Oregon, last month, Senators Murray and Cantwell sent a letter to DOT and the Office of Management and Budget urging them to immediately issue new rules to better protect communities and the environment from derailments with comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers.

“To better protect communities and the environment from accidents like this one, we urge you to immediately initiate a rulemaking to mandate comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Throughout Washington state, rail lines are adjacent to some of our nation’s most prized natural resources that are economic drivers for local communities and have supported tribal nations since time immemorial. To protect these irreplaceable assets, we must have robust policies in place to respond when accidents do happen.”

Today, robust oil spill response plan requirements are in place for pipelines and maritime vessels, and Senators Murray and Cantwell have consistently pushed to ensure railroads are treated no differently. Senators Murray and Cantwell have been leading voices in the Senate, working to make the transportation of crude oil safer. They joined together to introduce the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act, to halt the use of outdated tanks cars, require PHMSA to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via rail, and require comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying oil, petroleum and other hazardous products. Last year, the Senators both voted to pass the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five-year surface transportation bill, that was signed into law and also included several provisions to support the safe transport of crude by rail. On June 15, 2016, the Senators joined together to urge DOT and PHMSA to set an interim standard for the volatility of crude oil shipped by rail.

In 2014, Senator Murray held the first hearing on rail safety focusing on crude oil trains. Each year through the spending bill process, Senator Murray worked to ensure that rail safety remained a focus of the federal government and fought for investments in safety measures. Senator Murray has also been pushing DOT and PHMSA to initiate and complete this rulemaking on comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers, with the Senate-passed Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill directing PHMSA to finalize the proposed rules announced today by December 18, 2016.