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Landlocked States Ask DOT to Overturn Washington’s Attack on Oil Exports

‘Once again, a coastal state is trying to dictate what commodities other states can transport to market…’

IMAGE: Montana Department of Justice

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) After far-left lawmakers in Washington state passed a law tightening regulations on crude oil shipments through the state, two other states are asking federal authorities to step in and overturn it.

Montana and North Dakota officials petitioned the Department of Transportation to overturn the law, signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee under the pretense of environmentalism and safety issues due to claims that the oil was too volatile and exceeded the allowable vapor limit.

Although the national standard for crude oil to be considered stable is 14.7 pounds per square inch, the new Washington law sets that threshold at less than 9 psi, which would amount to substantial added extraction costs for the exporting states.

Although the states rely on Washington ports to ship the oil elsewhere, the new regulations make doing so economically inviable, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said in a news release on Wednesday.

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“Once again, a coastal state is trying to dictate what commodities other states can transport to market,” Fox said.

Fox said the landlocked states asked the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to step in because the federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act superseded state law.

“Under a law passed by Congress and signed by the president, the U.S. Department of Transportation has established a rigorous and uniform set of regulations for the safe transport of materials such as crude oil,” he said. “Washington state politicians want to pretend those standards are insufficient as a pretext for their anti-oil agenda.”

Fox and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the Washington law was specifically designed to target drilling in the Bakken Shale Formation, which had made the region one of the top oil exporters in the world, with North Dakota extracting roughly a million barrels a day by recent estimates.

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“[M]ake no mistake, Washington’s new law was designed to target Bakken oil precisely,” said the petition. “The shale revolution—and in particular the extraction of crude oil from the Bakken—has driven the overall uptick in transport of crude oil by rail.”

But apart from the substantial economic impact on the regions, the attorneys general said that the Washington law also set an alarming precedent for interstate commerce if allowed to stand.

“[O]ne state with access to particular transportation routes can dictate national and foreign energy policy by restricting or removing other states’ ability to move their natural resources and other hazardous materials,” the petition said. “And if other states follow Washington’s lead and set their own idiosyncratic hazardous-material transportation requirements, the patchwork effect of those laws and regulations could ironically make the nation less safe.”

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