A federal agency has sided with North Dakota and Montana in a dispute over a new Washington state law that places restrictions on shipments of oil by rail in an attempt to boost safety.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the decision Monday, nearly 10 months after North Dakota and Montana petitioned the agency to overturn the law, arguing that it amounted to a "de facto ban on Bakken crude."
The Washington Legislature passed a bill last spring requiring that oil unloaded from trains have a vapor pressure under 9 pounds per spare inch. The limit falls below North Dakota's cap, 13.7 psi, which is based on an industry standard.
PHMSA Chief Counsel Paul Roberti wrote in the decision that federal law and regulation surrounding the transportation of hazardous materials "preempts" the vapor pressure limit that Washington set.
He said Washington's limit, if it were to stand, "would set an alarming precedent."