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WA Dept. of Ecology approves state's first oil spill response plan for railroad

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, an estimated 18,462 rail cars travel with crude oil through Benton and Franklin counties every few months.

The Washington State Department of Ecology approved the first oil spill response plan from a railroad company this week.

Oil train traffic increased significantly in the Pacific Northwest over the last several years.

According to the state Department of Ecology, an estimated 18,462 rail cars travel with crude oil through Benton and Franklin counties every few months.

If any of it spills, Department of Ecology spokesperson Sandy Howard says the impacts could be massive

"There's an economic impact, there's an impact to the environment and there's also an impact to the public."

Due to the 2015 Oil Transportation Safety Act, the Department of Ecology now requires rail lines to have contingency plans that'll allow them to respond to oil spills quickly and effectively.

According to Howard, BNSF Railway Company is the first railroad company to have a plan approved.

It includes requiring spill response equipment, teams and resources be pre-positioned state wide, as well as be required to train local and tribal first responders.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas released a statement to Action News saying, “We are pleased the state acknowledges that BNSF is prepared with a safety response plan in place to protect the railroad, the communities we serve, and the environment.”

Howard says the department will continue to test the plan over the next few years by using mock oil spills.

While the final approval came on Thursday, Pasco Fire Department's public information officer Ben Shearer says they've had oil spill response plans in place for years with BNSF.

"We've known for a long time here because when we've had those small incidents, everything worked just exactly like it was supposed to and we've done what we've had to do keep the public safe."

BNSF is the largest freight railroad company in Washington state with 1,332 miles of tracks.

For more information about oil transportation in Washington state, click here.

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