Press Releases

Larsen Applauds First Responder Training on Crude By Rail, Underscores His Commitment to Safety

Washington, DC, September 23, 2014

Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, released the following statement today regarding the BNSF announcement that by early October more than 600 first responders in Washington state will get training about how to handle hazardous materials, including crude oil, that travel by rail. Larsen helped connect first responders in Northwest Washington to these free trainings.

First responders are the last line of defense should an accident happen, which means they need to be well trained and equipped to protect communities and themselves. I am pleased BNSF is offering free training to first responders across Washington state, and I will continue to be in contact with local officials planning other training events across Northwest Washington later this year,” Larsen said.

Larsen also underscored his commitment to ensuring crude oil shipped by rail is transported as safely as possible. Larsen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is working to hold railroads and shippers accountable for higher standards to keep communities near rail lines safe.

“The accidents involving trains carrying crude oil last year were a wakeup call that Congress needed to move quickly to make these trains safer. Crude by rail traffic through the Pacific Northwest has increased exponentially in the last couple of years, which makes better safety measures all the more imperative. And constituents have told me they are concerned about the safety of their neighborhoods, a concern that I share. The more I learn about crude by rail, the more I understand the changes we can make to keep cargo moving forward safely and efficiently.

“This is why I am not waiting around hoping the next big crude oil accident does not happen here in the Pacific Northwest. I have been engaging with local, state and federal officials, as well as industry experts and first responders to learn more about how we can transport crude by rail as safely as possible by putting in place stronger standards for tank cars, making sure rail lines are well maintained, and ensuring first responders know how to handle a potential accident.

“Getting the most dangerous tank cars off the rails is important, and I have pushed the U.S. Department of Transportation to raise the standard on the cars that carry crude. Secretary Foxx has assured me he recognizes the critical importance of putting in place new standards. I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to make sure new rules are rigorous and effective.

“Another safety priority is ensuring tank cars, tracks and loading facilities get inspected carefully and regularly. I asked my colleagues on the House Appropriations committee to provide more money for these inspections. I also examined BNSF’s inspection processes in Everett earlier this year to understand them better.

“I am pleased that safe transport of crude by rail is getting more attention in the Pacific Northwest and across the country and that my colleagues also see this issue as a priority. One of my main jobs is to stay ahead of critical issues my constituents share as issues, and crude by rail is a prime example of how I can push for progress to keep our communities safe. The work over the next several months is to translate rules on paper into safety on the rails,” Larsen said.

Larsen has met with local leaders, state legislators, Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, and Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve King to discuss ways to work together. He also has visited the Shell, Phillips 66, Tesoro and BP refineries to better understand the construction of their crude by rail unloading facilities in Northwest Washington.

Larsen also has met with several federal officials, including Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Administrator Cynthia Quarterman to discuss his concerns about the safe transport of crude through the 2nd District and to be briefed on the actions PHMSA is taking. He has talked with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to push for strong safety standards. And he has also spoken to former NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, who shared her agency’s perspective about how to improve safety.