The first Washington state railroad oil spill response plan was approved on March 1.

Washington’s Department of Ecology approved the plan for BNSF Railway Company, which owns 1,332 miles of track within state borders and transports oil to refineries at Cherry Point and Ferndale. BNSF is the state’s largest freight railroad company.

The state’s Department of Ecology stated that the approval of the plan is a step toward protecting the local environment. 

“Oil by rail has expanded significantly in recent years, and it’s imperative railroad companies are prepared to work with the state to respond to a spill in a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated manner,” said Dale Jensen, the department’s spills prevention program manager. 

Last year, railroad companies transported about 2 billion gallons of crude oil through Washington.

The 2015 Oil Transportation Safety Act now requires railroad companies to have response plans in place in case of a spill. BNSF’s new plan includes measures to care for affected wildlife, measures for notifying appropriate authorities, and measures to position equipment and personnel all around the state.

The Department of Ecology is currently working on preparing oil spill response plans with eight railroad companies that operate in Washington. To learn more, visit the department’s website here.