Feds roll back safety regulations on oil trains; local environmentalist call for drastic measures

SEATTLE -- The Trump administration's latest decision to roll back safety regulations of oil trains has many in Washington upset, including Gov. Jay Inslee.

Environmentalist are now asking the state to intervene, even pushing for some dramatic  measures like stopping oil trains from arriving at their destination.

“The federal government has the authority to regulate the railroads all along the route, but the state has control over the actual destination site,” Eric De Place of Sightline Institute said.

The call for intervention comes after the U.S. Department of Transportation decided to get rid of a mandate to equip oil trains with electronic brakes by 2021.

Brakes that would activate on all tank cars at the same time, cutting back on the distance and time needed for a train to stop. But DOT says the cost would be three times the benefit. On Friday, BNSF released a statement saying they were pleased with the decision, saying they want “common sense regulatory principles.”

In response, Inslee said in part:

“The Trump administration is taking a reckless and dangerous step by caving to corporate special interests and undoing one of the few new safety rules we won.”

“It’s not a question of if they blow up it's a question of when they blow up,” De Place said.

In 2014, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed under the Magnolia Bridge. There was no leak and no one was hurt.

But other places like Mosier, Oregon and Quebec, Canada, have been rattled by fiery explosions.

“Remember these oil trains travel under downtown Seattle, they come out by the Pike Place Market, if that happened in Seattle, I mean, forget it -- the cost would be astronomical,” De Place said.

Q13 News talked to a bicyclist passing along the tracks in Magnolia on Friday who said the cost to upgrade oil trains are worth it

“I come through here fairly often. My real concern would be the people who live here,” Ted Inkley said.

The rollback is also coming at a time when one oil company is looking to build a new terminal at the Port of Vancouver to export 360,000 barrels of oil per day.

“With the federal government stepping back on safety regulation, Governor Inslee has everything he needs to deny that project,” De Place said.

Inslee is expected to make a final decision on the Vancouver deal early next year.