Contingency planning for oil industry

We require oil-handling operations — such as facilities, pipelines, large commercial vessels, and railroads — to have oil spill contingency plans that detail how they would respond to oil spills. We review the plans and test them in complex deployment and tabletop drills as part of our public service.


Updated contingency plan rules for state-approved oil spill contingency plan holders became effective on January 18, 2020. These updates:​

  • Established requirements for review and approval of Spill Management Teams and Wildlife Response Service Providers.
  • Enhanced requirements for readiness for spills of oils that, depending on their chemical properties, environmental factors (weathering), and method of discharge, may submerge or sink.
  • Enhanced drill requirements to reflect legislative direction.
  • Updated planning standards to align vessel and facility requirements and ensured best achievable protection is maintained in contingency plans.
  • Enhanced planning standards for oiled wildlife response.
  • Established three types of railroads and streamline requirements based on railroad types.

Additional information on the rule updates can be accessed at: 

Oil spill contingency planning

Washington state requires larger oil-handling facilities, pipelines, commercial vessels, and railroads to have state-approved oil spill contingency plans. These plans describe the plan holder's ability to respond to oil spills. Plans include information on spill response procedures, equipment, safety, communications, and training.

Each company is required to develop, maintain, and test their contingency plan. We review and approve plans on a five-year cycle. The oil spill contingency plan rule requires a 30-day public review and comment period for plan updates.

Guidance and assistance for specific industries

All railroads carrying oil as cargo must submit and maintain an oil spill contingency plan. Updates to Chapter 173-186 WAC became effective on January 18, 2020. The phase-in date for current plan holders is June 18, 2021.

Assistance documentation

A contingency plan must be submitted for review and approval at least 65 days prior to the beginning of operations at a new facility. Facilities with an approved contingency plan must resubmit the plan for review and approval every five years.

Assistance documentation

All tank vessels and large commercial vessels greater than 300 gross tons are required to develop, maintain, and practice their contingency plan, or sign up with an approved Washington state umbrella plan.

Assistance documentation

Class 2 mobile facilities are required to operate under an approved oil transfer response plan. Class 2 facilities must prepare and submit their response plan at least 90 days prior to conducting the first transfer operation to a non-recreational vessel. The below tools have been developed to assist mobile facilities in their development of their plan.

Approved response plans are valid for five years. Facilities with an expiring approval must submit an updated plan for re-approval, or a letter asking us to review and re-approve the existing plan, at least 90 days before expiration.