June 23, 2014

Crude-By-Rail Routes To Be Disclosed

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The public may soon learn the routes that crude oil trains travel through their states.  Earthfix reports today that BNSF Railway will not go to court to block Washington state from releasing the information.   Earthfix is a collaboration of public media stations in the Northwest focusing on environmental news.

Railways have resisted the release of route information, claiming that it was a security and competitiveness issue.  The federal government now requires companies to inform emergency responders when large trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota travel through communities.  But rail companies asked states to sign nondisclosure agreements, requiring that the information not be released to the public but only to those who “need to know.” Several states, including Washington, refused to sign the agreements.

Following the mandatory notification order, records containing route, volume and the timing of weekly shipments from the Bakken were filed in Washington state and elsewhere.

In response to hundreds of public records requests, state officials in Washington gave BNSF ten days to release the information to the public, or file a court order to stop the release.  That deadline was Monday, June 24th.

Earthfix quotes BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace saying they do not intend to file an injunction and the determination of what information should be released lies with the Federal government and Washington state emergency responders.

She added:

“We think it is very important that those responsible for security and emergency planning have such information to ensure that proper planning and training are in place for public safety, but we also continue to urge discretion in the wider distribution of specific details.”

The state of Montana has said they plan to release the information on Wednesday.  Inside Energy data analysis has found that a significant amount of the Bakken crude travels across Montana to ports along the west coast in Washington state and Oregon.

Wyoming has signed a nondisclosure agreement with at least one railroad.  While Colorado has not signed, they have agreed to only release the information to emergency responders.  Very little Bakken crude travels through Colorado or Wyoming.