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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Advance Measure Aimed At Rail Spill Disasters

Emily Schwing
Northwest News Network
File photo of a train carrying volatile Bakken crude oil that derailed in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge in 2016.

Oregon lawmakers are moving ahead with a measure that would require railroads to explain how they'd deal with hazardous spills. A legislative budget subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance the measure.

It comes just over a year after a Union Pacific freight train carrying crude oil derailed and burned in the Columbia Gorge town of Mosier.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Smith Warner said that while no one was killed, the incident was a wake-up call.

"I really believe that we have to continue to plan and prepare for another oil spill,” she said. “Mosier was far from the worst-case situation, and we're lucky that it wasn't."

Railroads would be required to submit contingency plans to the state on how they'd deal with a future spill. But those plans would be kept from the public under the bill.

Some lawmakers on the committee said that provision concerns them, and they might vote against the measure if it comes to the floor.