The Department of Ecology recently released their Draft Marine & Rail Oil Transportation Study as tasked by Governor Inslee following the 2014 Legislative Session. They also firmed up dates, locations, and times for upcoming public hearings at the end of October to accept public comment on the report. After spending the better part of an otherwise gorgeous October afternoon reading all 110 pages of the report, I can honestly say that it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to protecting our rich marine ecosystem. Coastal advocates should take the time to get up to speed on this issue and make their voice heard over the next month.


Will the State of Washington ensure that a massive oil spill doesn’t occur along the outer coast & Salish Sea?

If you enjoy recreating along the Washington coast, fishing in the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, Outer Coast or Salish Sea, eating fresh, locally harvested shellfish like oysters & clams…then you might be very concerned to know that none of the above were even mentioned in the report. Given the socioeconomic & cultural importance of these activities to our State, it’s alarming to that these uses aren’t given the attention that they deserve as they would be devastated in the event of a major oil spill along our coast. Oil trains recently blocked beach access in Everett. The issue is being framed as being more inland & rail-based, while these concerns are definitely valid, at the end of the day there is a much larger amount of oil being transported over water via vessels and barges, and a major spill could have an even more devastating long-term impact to our marine resources.

From the Report “Incorporating crude by rail related tankers and articulated tug-barges (ATBs) into the ever-changing vessel traffic in Washington State waters could potentially increase risks of spills from all vessels. Although difficult to quantify, the most likely source of a major oil spill from a marine vessel in Washington State is the rupture of a non-tank vessel’s fuel oil tanks from a collision or grounding event. Credible spill sizes reach to several hundred thousand gallons. Increased traffic from all sources increases these risks. Crude by rail leading to increased exports of petroleum products contributes to this increased risk. The effects of this change have not been included in existing publicly released vessel traffic studies.” If it feels like the wool is being pulled over your eyes then you’re not alone.

What can you do to be a part of the solution, you ask?

Learn more by checking out the Ecology website & reading the report.

Make your voice heard by attending one of the upcoming public hearings!

NOTE: Bus transportation and car pools are being arranged for Whatcom/Skagit County, East King County, Seattle, Grays Harbor, and Vancouver/Longview. Car pools for all areas are also being organized. Details are in the RSVP links above. For more info & talking points, contact WA Field Manager Brice Boland.

Can’t attend the meeting, but still want to chime in? Provide Public Comment on the Study 

Surfrider is in the process of drafting our comments on behalf of the Washington Chapters. If you’re interested in getting involved in this issue and learning more, plan to attend an upcoming Chapter Meeting, or contact WA Policy Manager Gus Gates.