Bill That Would Regulate Oil By Rail Shipments Moves Forward

Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press (AP)
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The new California budget that passed this week would expand the state’s oil spill prevention and response program. Lawmakers are still pushing legislation to strengthen the safety of importing oil by rail.

Several bills moving through the legislature attempt to strengthen safety and emergency response of oil by rail shipments. An Assembly committee passed one bill that would update the state’s oil prevention and response program, require a risk assessment and increase public disclosure of oil by rail shipments.

Democratic Senator Fran Pavley is the bill’s author.  

 “I think it’s incumbent upon us to do, to the maximum extent possible, to make sure our first responders, and our communities and OSPR the oil spill prevention agency and the fish and game department are trained and able to respond,” says Pavley.

The California Energy Commission expects nearly a quarter of the oil imported to the state will be delivered by rail by 2016.  But Liisa Stark with Union Pacific Railroad takes issue with those statistics.

“Those are projections, those are not absolutes," says Stark. "Part of the reason that is, is because you don’t have facilities here in the state that can take that oil right now.”

Stark spoke against the bill. She says portions of the measure are preempted by federal law.  Several lawmakers are questioning the safety of importing oil by rail after a series of derailments in Canada and the US last year.  The legislation now moves to another committee.

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