SALEM — The Oregon House passed a bill Monday that would create new fees on oil train cars to pay for spill prevention and planning in the state.
The House passed the bill 55-3, sending it to the state Senate for consideration.
Along with the fees, which would go to the state fire marshal and the state Department of Environmental Quality, the bill would require train operators to carry more insurance when operating the trains, to help pay for spill cleanup.
The fees, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, would raise about $1 million every two years before expiring in 2027.
The bill also requires railroads to carry enough insurance to pay to clean up a worst-case spill, defined as 15% of a train’s load — less than spilled in the worst spill to date.
A runaway oil train derailed in July 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and spilling oil from 63 of its 72 tank cars. The crash released 75% of the 2 million gallons of oil the train carried. In 2016, a Union Pacific train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Mosier, near the Columbia River. Sixteen cars derailed, with three catching fire and four discharging oil, provoking an interstate response and the evacuation of 147 residents.
Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, led earlier efforts to adopt planning standards like those in other West Coast states. Citing the Mosier derailment, Smith Warner called future spills inevitable and said the state needs to be prepared.
Federal figures list the Mosier derailment as releasing 47,000 gallons of oil, with 16,000 gallons burned or vaporized and 18,000 gallons absorbed by soil in the area.
Milelong crude oil trains began to travel across Oregon in 2012, turning railroad tracks on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge into a passageway for oil between North Dakota oil fields and refineries in Washington and California.
Today, swaths of the state’s rail lines have no plans for how to respond to a catastrophic oil spill.