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Jaime Herrera Beutler Secures Improvements to FEMA’s Oil Spill Response Grants in House Bill

House committee approves Department of Homeland Security spending bill that makes oil spill response activities “high priority”

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Washington, DC, July 14, 2015 | comments
Today, Jaime Herrera Beutler secured a reform in a U.S. House spending bill that will make federal emergency response grants for crude oil and ethanol rail traffic a higher priority.
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Today, Jaime Herrera Beutler secured a reform in a U.S. House spending bill that will make federal emergency response grants for crude oil and ethanol rail traffic a higher priority.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides Firefighter Assistance Grants directly to local fire departments to pay for equipment that protects the health and safety of the public and firefighters, including volunteers and emergency medical service personnel.  However, FEMA does not treat grant applications for hazmat operations, training, and equipment acquisition relating to crude oil and ethanol rail traffic as a high priority, making it more difficult for municipalities like Vancouver to compete for federal assistance to respond to potential oil-by-rail incidents.

To rectify this problem, Jaime successfully inserted a legislative provision into the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s 2016 Department of Homeland Security spending bill that that will help crude oil- and ethanol-by-rail response efforts obtain critical federal funding by reclassifying them as “high priority.

“Public safety needs to be paramount with regard to the oil traveling through Southwest Washington by rail.  As I continue to work in Congress to elevate rail safety in our communities, I’m pleased to advance this important reform to help our first responders more quickly and efficiently address an accident,” said Jaime. “Under the current system, cities and towns on our rail lines are at a disadvantage as they compete for federal assistance to prepare for an incident.  By making their efforts a higher priority, we are demonstrating to residents of Southwest Washington who see oil by rail daily that if, God forbid, we have a derailment, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we are equipped and prepared to deal with it.”

“We appreciate Congresswoman Herrera Beutler for championing our request at the federal level to provide critical federal resources to train and equip our first responders,” said Tim Leavitt, Mayor of the City of Vancouver.  “To date, FEMA grant criteria has severely restricted access to crude-by-rail training and equipment dollars. Our firefighters and police are some of the best in the country, but we need to provide them with the training and tools necessary to help protect our community from the public safety challenges posed by crude-by-rail shipments. We look forward to working together with the Congresswoman as the measure moves through the Congress."

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