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Chapter 173-186 WAC

Oil Spill Contingency Plan - Railroad Rulemaking



Linda Pilkey-Jarvis


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On August 31, 2016 Ecology adopted a new rule, Chapter 173-186 WAC, Oil Spill Contingency Plan – Railroad.

Chapter 173-186 WAC establishes oil spill contingency plan, drill and equipment verification requirements, and provisions for inspection of records for owners and operators of railroads required to submit oil spill contingency plans under chapter 90.56 RCW, and for the response contractors that support the implementation of the railroad plans. The adoption of this rule requires railroads to develop and maintain contingency plans approved by Ecology. The rule applies to all railroads (not owned by the state) operating in Washington that transport bulk oil as cargo.

Why It Matters

Increased crude by rail transport has changed the risk picture for oil spills in Washington State. During the 2015 legislative session, RCW 88.46.010 and RCW 90.56.010 were amended to include railroads (not owned by the state) that transport bulk oil as cargo in the definition of “facility”, and RCW 90.56.210 was amended to expand Ecology’s authority to require state contingency plans for rail. Ecology was directed to develop rules establishing contingency planning requirements for railroads transporting oil in bulk.

Contingency plans for railroads will ensure that environmental and economic damages from oil spills are reduced and that public health and safety is protected through immediate notifications of spills and threats of spills, coordination with first responders, pre-staged oil response equipment, and personnel trained to respond to incidents in a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated manner. The rule also requires regularly scheduled oil spill drills to test and strengthen the plans through implementation.


Ecology’s process for developing this rule included input from regulated railroads, consultation with tribes, outreach to interested parties and the public, and following formal steps for rule adoption.