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Pipeline operator must fix flaws in oil spill plan

September 24, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state regulators on Monday ordered the operator of the Trans Mountain pipeline to correct deficiencies in a new oil spill response plan it submitted for the 64-mile (103-kilometer) pipeline that operates within the state.

The Department of Ecology said the pipeline operator has 60 days to provide how it would respond to a spill of heavy oils that sink to the seafloor and provide details on endangered species such as orcas that are at risk among other items.

Trans Mountain said in an email Monday that it is reviewing the department’s conditions and would respond within the time allowed.

Safety is a top priority and the company has developed a comprehensive emergency management program over the past several decades, Trans Mountain added.

The Puget Sound pipeline has carried oil from Canada to refineries in Washington state since the 1950s. Last year, it carried about 2.6 billion gallons of crude oil to refineries in Ferndale and Anacortes, according to the state.

All operations that handle oil, including facilities, vessels, railroads and pipelines, are required in Washington state to develop state-approved plan that describe their ability to respond to oil spills. Companies are also required to test those plans.

The 64-mile segment is part of the larger Trans Mountain pipeline that brings oil extracted from tar sands north of Alberta to a terminal outside Vancouver, British Columbia.

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved the contentious Trans Mountain expansion project that would nearly triple the flow of oil and result in a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers through Canada and Washington state waters.

Canada’s federal government recently bought the pipeline, including the spur operating in Washington state, from Kinder Morgan for $3.4 billion ($4.5 billion Canadian) to ensure the project gets built. But Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal last month overturned the approval of the expansion.

The operator of the Puget Sound Pipeline submitted a new oil spill plan to the state for the existing pipeline. Ecology said it received 14,000 public comments, all of which opposed the plan’s ability to address the spill of oils that submerge.

The state Legislature passed a law earlier this year that direct the state agency to specifically address the risks of oils submerging and sinking, prompting a closer look at how the pipeline would handle such spills.

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