E-Newsletter Volume 8, No. #5




Representative Brad Witt
District 31

Phone: 503-986-1431    900 Court St. NE, H-374, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: rep.bradwitt@state.or.us    Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/witt
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February 26, 2014              E-Newsletter              Volume 8, No. 5

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Hi Everyone,


This week I want to call your attention to an important bill for our District.  As you know, there has been a lot of conversation lately about both the presence and the increase of rail cars carrying crude oil through our area.  Recognizing this, Senator Betsy Johnson and I, along with several similarly minded colleagues, co-sponsored HJM 201A, urging Congress to enhance rail car safety. We are calling for stronger safety standards for all rail cars transporting flammable liquids, including crude, and cars that can’t be retrofitted should be phased out.

There have been a lot of questions as to what we can do at the local and state level to regulate rail traffic and the answer is: not much.  Freight rail activity is overseen at the federal level by the US Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  Regional offices are responsible for administering and inspecting assigned safety programs and evaluating performance.


In spite of the lack of local control, I am pleased to report that the US DOT issued an Emergency Order on Tuesday, requiring stricter standards to transport crude oil by rail.  Effective immediately, those who offer crude oil for transportation by rail must ensure that the product is properly tested and classified in accordance with federal safety regulations.  The Emergency Order also requires that all Class III crude oil shipments be designated as Packing Group I or II, thereby requiring the use of a more robust tank car.  Packing Group III, a lower risk designation, will not be accepted, until further notice.  This should go a long ways toward addressing many of the concerns voiced by those communities most impacted by rail traffic.


In advance of this Emergency Order, railroad owner/operators were already stepping up safety measures.  In the past few weeks an agreement was drafted between the Association of American Railroads and the US DOT to adopt wide-ranging safety measures and thousands of strengthened tank cars have been ordered.  In our district, and all along the lower Columbia, rail is operated by Portland & Western Railroad, and they have committed to rail safety and the prosperity of our region.


In Oregon, ODOT’s Rail Division is doing their part by continuing to inspect tracks, hazardous materials and operating practices.  Although they are not authorized to set policy, as the agent for the FRA they are the boots-on-the-ground inspectors who make sure safe practices are being followed.

Finally, I must believe that the passage of HJM 201, along with all of the other states that passed similar legislation, made a difference.  There is strength in numbers.  My office will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the transport of hazardous materials receives the diligent inspection that it deserves and that the safety of my constituents and their communities remains at the forefront of rail commerce in District 31 and throughout our state.

Bills of Interest…

SB 1541:  Reinstates the tax credit to farmers for donations to children, the homeless, unemployed, elderly or low-income individuals.
HB 4055:  Includes prepaid cell phones in the funding stream for 911 beginning in October 2015.
SB 1577A: Establishes the “Silver Alert” program, a public notification system to broadcast information on missing persons, primarily seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities, in order to aid in their return.
SB 1563:  Increases the cap on entrepreneurial development loans from $70,000 to $100,000, and extends the loan period from five to ten years.

Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter…have a great weekend!