Emergency Order Forces Transparency From Rail Industry On Oil Movements

May 8, 2014

There are millions of gallons of oil moving by train through the Northwest.

Most of them are traveling from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, to several refineries along Puget Sound.

Until now, the railroad companies moving oil haven’t had to tell state authorities anything about their cargo.
Credit ahhyeah / Flickr

But until now, the railroad companies moving that oil haven’t had to tell state authorities anything about their dangerous cargo.

An emergency order from the Federal Transportation Department has changed that.

Railroad companies that move oil have 30 days to start sharing information with state emergency responders.

They’ll have to tell state officials how many crude oil trains are going through each county per week and what route they’re taking.

They’ll also have to disclose how much oil those trains are carrying and how dangerous it is.

That’s valuable, says Linda Kent, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

“It’s critical for the safety of our communities and our first responders and helps everybody respond more safely if incidents do occur so yeah, it’s pretty important,” Kent said.

Last session the state legislature tried and failed to pass bills requiring more transparency from oil and rail companies operating in Washington.

Oil trains have caused spills and explosions around North America in recent years.

Last week, a train derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Va., spilling oil into the James River.

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