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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Attorneys general call on USDOT to stop Washington's crude-by-rail law

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and nine other states' attorneys general wrote a letter in opposition to Washington state's new crude-by-rail law.
Photo – Hill's Twitter account


Attorneys general from 10 states have joined Montana and North Dakota in calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to overrule a Washington state law regarding the transportation of crude oil by rail.

This week, attorneys general from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming wrote to the department to support the position of the Montana and North Dakota attorneys general, who have petitioned the Trump administration to overturn Washington's law.

Earlier this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that requires Bakken crude shipped through the state by rail to have a lower vapor pressure limit. The law's opponents have described it as a "de-facto ban" on crude-by rail traffic from North Dakota to refineries in the Pacific Northwest.

“This state law will cause economic harm to energy-producing states,” said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill in a press release.

In their letter, Hill and the other attorneys general noted that shipping energy products by rail is an interstate effort, and it's up to the federal government to regulate transportation of hazardous materials.

"States that have access to port cities are uniquely situated to harm landlocked states,” they wrote.

Allowing states to ban the transportation of products like Bakken crude oil would effectively transfer national and international energy policy to a few coastal states, the attorneys general wrote.

If Washington's law is upheld, it's likely that other states will implement their own laws rather than complying with a federal standard, the letter noted.

“If states can create new classifications of hazardous materials, a patchwork of laws will undermine the uniform federal law, and states with special geographic advantages will wield their newfound power to our disadvantage. We urge you to prevent this law from becoming precedent before it affects states beyond Washington and hazardous materials beyond Bakken Shale oil,” the letter concluded.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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