Montana Crude Rail Routes Revealed

An analysis of waybills – freight receipts kept by railroad companies – shows that the vast majority of crude oil traveling on rails comes from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and moves on large trains that can be more than 100 cars long. This map shows a time-lapse view of where oil trains came from from 2012. For a full explanation of this data, see, “Train Waybills Unlock Crude Oil Mysteries.”

A dozen or more trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken region are moving across northern Montana every week, skirting the edge of Glacier National Park. More trains — far fewer in number – pass through populated regions farther south. Governor Steve Bullock released the route information this week, making Montana the latest state after Washington to buck railroads’ requests to keep the information out of public hands.

Crude Oil Train Secrecy

Hundreds of thousands of tank cars full of crude oil snake across the nation each year, and the number is only increasing — in the last five years, it’s jumped 14-fold. Along with that, there’s been an increased number of accidents, derailments and spills. Public safety advocates are clamoring for more information about where the trains are going and how much crude they’re carrying, but it’s been almost impossible to come by. Regulators don’t collect it and the railroads have refused to disclose it. Why the secrecy?