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Oregon Lawmakers Advance Measure Aimed At Rail Spill Disasters


An overhead shot of the wreckage from an oil train derailment and fire in Mosier, Ore., on June 4, 2016, the morning after the crash.

An overhead shot of the wreckage from an oil train derailment and fire in Mosier, Ore., on June 4, 2016, the morning after the crash.

Courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology

Oregon lawmakers are moving ahead with a measure that would require railroads to explain how they’d deal with hazardous spills.

A legislative budget subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance the measure.

It comes just over a year after a Union Pacific freight train carrying crude oil derailed and burned in the Columbia Gorge town of Mosier.

Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, said that while no one was killed the incident was a wake-up call.

“I really believe that we have to continue to plan and prepare for another oil spill,” she said. “Mosier was far from the worst-case situation, and we’re lucky that it wasn’t.”

Under the measure, railroads would be required to submit contingency plans to the state on how they’d deal with a future spill.

But those plans would be kept from the public under the bill. Some lawmakers on the committee said that provision concerns them, and they might vote against the measure if it comes to the floor.

A lobbyist for Union Pacific testified Tuesday that the railroad was neutral on the measure.

The bill will next be considered by the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee at a Wednesday meeting.

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