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Pennsylvania Declines to Release Oil Train Route Info

Government officials in Pennsylvania have declined to provide information that railroad companies provide about shipments of crude oil through that state.

After several serious oil train accidents, including one in Lynchburg, Virginia (VA), which caused several oil cars to fall into the James River, the US DOT issued an order in May that requires railroads to provide information to state emergency managers the trains that are carrying oil from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota. They also are required to disclose the routes of these shipments of the volatile crude oil.

The federal order requires each railroad to give an estimate on the number of trains that go through each county per week that are carrying one million gallons or more of Bakken crude, as well as the routes used.

The PA Emergency Management Agency last week would not provide these railroad reports to the media, noting that they were in their view both confidential and proprietary. Federal officials have said there is no reason to not disclose the information.

In June the associate administrator of the Federal Railroad Assn. stated that these reports are not sensitive information that should be withheld. Since that announcement, six states, including Virginia, Washington, North Dakota, California, Montana and Florida, has released the information.

It is not clear why some states such as Pennsylvania continue to be unwilling to provide this information to the public. The federal government is likely to pressure these states to release the oil train route information in the near future.

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