Washington State Responds to State, International Fuel Emergencies Following Extreme Weather

Source: Dennis Schroeder, NREL 27635

On November 15, 2021, heavy rainfall and strong winds after a prolonged drought led to flooding, landslides, and debris flows which damaged infrastructure in northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia and led to a regional fuel emergency. The Washington State Emergency Operations Center activated the State Department of Commerce’s Energy Emergency Management Office to lead the energy response and recovery coordination.

The Department of Commerce coordinated with the Washington State Department of Transportation to ensure a vendor in a small fuel truck could make critical fuel deliveries until the landslides could be cleared and the main road is repaired.

Damage from the same series of storms was much worse in nearby British Columbia. As a result of flooding erosion, the Trans Mountain Pipeline — which supplies Washington refineries with crude oil from Alberta and refined fuel to the coast of British Columbia — was unearthed and forced to shut down. The Washington State Energy Emergency Management Office contacted British Columbia to offer support. The team collaborated with the British Columbia Provincial Emergency Coordination Center, as well as energy emergency responders from the Western States Petroleum Collaborative (WSPC), U.S. federal energy professionals, and petroleum industry partners.

“This is the first time we’ve coordinated on an international response. Energy infrastructure does not stop at borders,” said Eli King, Director of Washington Energy Emergency Management. “We are committed to working together with our neighbors and industry partners to support our communities.”

King said this level of collaboration will be increasingly necessary as extreme weather events put a strain on energy resources. The work of the Energy Emergency Management Office and WSPC are central to helping manage fuel and energy emergency planning and coordination.

The WSPC (or Western Petroleum Shortage Response Collaborative [WPSRC]) was created by NASEO and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) with support and funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) to facilitate the coordination and development of a regional catastrophic fuel response framework among a subset of western states’ emergency management and energy offices. The Collaborative was previously activated during the summer of 2021 to support the energy emergency response for fuel distribution disruptions caused by wildland fires.

Read more about the Washington Energy Emergency Management Office’s response here.

You can find additional details on the Western States Petroleum Collaborative here.