Washington oil train safety bill could prompt North Dakota suit

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019 1:30am
  • News

The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s oil regulator is planning to sue the state of Washington if it goes ahead with a proposal to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil transported by rail, saying it is not supported by science and would devalue the product.

The Washington Senate voted last month to mandate a lower vapor pressure limit for Bakken crude shipped through the state by rail, aiming to limit fiery derailments.

“People and their safety must come first. Experts know that highly flammable Bakken oil poses greater risk, and it’s time to take meaningful action to reduce the threat of a serious catastrophe,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, the primary sponsor of the bill, after state senators approved the measure.

North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources has requested state money to sue Washington if the legislation advances, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Data from North Dakota’s Pipeline Authority shows that refineries in Washington state are the primary destination for Bakken deliveries of crude by rail, with daily averages of 200,000 barrels.

Federal authorities have mandated regional response teams for oil train wrecks after a series of fiery derailments since 2013.

North Dakota regulations that were implemented in 2015 require companies to extract the most volatile gases from Bakken crude oil to guarantee the vapor pressure doesn’t surpass 13.7 pounds per square inch. State officials established that threshold based on a national standard for stable crude oil, which is 14.7 psi, and also factoring in a margin of error of 1 psi for sampling and measuring, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Helms went to Washington last month to testify against the bill now being discussed by a House committee.

He asserted removing the light hydrocarbons from Bakken crude to attain that vapor pressure would “devalue the crude oil immensely.”

“If this becomes law, crude oil will no longer come there from North Dakota. It will find another home because it would be devalued,” Helms recently told members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

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