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Spills Program

Chapter 173-185 WAC
Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification


In 2015, the Washington Legislature directed Ecology to develop rules on new reporting requirements for the movement of crude oil by rail and pipeline.

On August 24, 2016, Ecology adopted the new rule, Chapter 173-185 WAC, Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification to enhance oil spill preparedness and response in Washington State.

Chapter 173-185 WAC establishes reporting standards for facilities that receive crude oil by rail, and pipelines that transport crude oil in or through the state. Additionally, the rule identifies reporting standards for Ecology to share information with emergency responders, local governments, tribes, and the public.

This rule applies to facilities in Washington State that receive crude oil deliveries transported through the state by rail, and pipelines that transport crude oil in or through transmission pipelines in the state.

Why It Matters

Significant changes in the modes of transportation and properties of crude oil are occurring in Washington State. Washington State has experienced dramatic changes in the amount and types of oil transported by rail and pipeline. There has been an increase in the amount of heavy crude oils, such as diluted bitumen from Canada and light crude oils, such as Bakken from North Dakota, being transported through the state. Diluted bitumen is concerning because under some conditions it may become submerged below the water surface or sink to the bottom when spilled into water. Bakken crude is more volatile and flammable, and likely to seep into the groundwater more quickly than other types of crude oil. Therefore, an incident involving these crude oil types may create greater environmental, safety, health, and economic impacts than other types of crude oil.

Timely notice of oil movement information is needed for emergency responders and planners to effectively prepare for and respond to oil spills and other incidents associated with the transport of crude oil by rail and pipeline. Providing adequate information helps to protect the lives of people living and working near railroads and pipelines, the economy, and environmental resources of Washington State.

Scope of Rule Development

The rule:

  • Specifies the applicability of the rule.
  • Defines terms used in the rule and ensures consistency with other Ecology regulations.
  • Establishes advance notice requirements for facilities that receive crude oil by rail.
  • Establishes biannual notice requirements for pipelines that transport crude oil in or through the state.
  • Identifies the manner that information must be submitted to Ecology.
  • Identifies the process for emergency responders, local governments, and tribes to request oil movement information, and the process that Ecology will use to provide non-aggregated information.
  • Identifies the types of aggregated information that Ecology will disclose to the public.
  • Establishes penalties for noncompliance with the rule.

Process of Development

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



Kim Morley

Jase Brooks


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