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ND Seeks to Overturn Washington State Rail Law

Jul 17, 2019


Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced today that North Dakota has filed a petition with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) seeking to overturn a recently passed Washington State law.
 
Federal law authorizes PHMSA to establish a uniform set of national regulations ensuring the safe transportation of hazardous materials, including those transported by rail. It includes express preemption language, which means PHMSA has the authority to declare a state law is in conflict with federal standards.

The new Washington state law, scheduled to go into effect on July 28, prohibits oil from being unloaded in the state from rail cars that have a vapor pressure greater than 9 psi, which is significantly lower than accepted national standards. This new standard would make it uneconomical for oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana to be unloaded at Washington state refineries.

North Dakota maintains that Washington’s attempt to re-classify crude oil based on its vapor pressure is inconsistent with federal standards. Moreover, it sets the precedent that one state with access to particular transportation routes can restrict another state’s ability to move its own natural resources across state borders.

Stenehjem said coastal states should not be able to dictate what goods can move from one state to the next or be exported. 

"While oil is the issue in this case, it's reasonable to expect that other commodities could be next – like soybeans, GMO crops, meat from animals that are not free range – you name it,” he said. 

The state of Montana has joined North Dakota’s petition.

Click here to read the petition. 
 
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