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Coverage of energy that moves beyond polarized arguments and emotional debate to explore the points of tension, the tradeoffs and opportunities, and the very human consequences of energy policy, production, use and innovation.Inside Energy is a collaboration of seven public media outlets in the nation's energy epicenter: Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Crude Oil Rail Routes Won't Be Made Public

Randen Pederson
Flickr - Creative Commons
Tankers in a railroad yard in Wisconsin, pictured June 2013.

The railroad industry is taking steps to avoid public disclosure of crude oil shipment routes, reports The Associated Press. The companies were ordered in May by the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin notifying rail yards and emergency responders when large shipments of Bakken crude were rolling through their communities.

Those disclosures are due to begin June 7. The companies have to reveal route details and the amount of oil carried in shipments of 35 or more tank cars.

Citing security concerns, the railroads have asked states to sign confidentiality agreements to not reveal the routes to the public. Stephanie Joyce of Wyoming Public Media confirmed with Wyoming’s Attorney General that the state has signed a nondisclosure agreement with Union Pacific railroad.

"A lot of it is for confidentiality because of the safety, security, as well as the business workings."

The AP lists North Dakota as one of the states that have thus far refused to sign, along with Wisconsin, Montana, Illinois, Idaho and Washington. Colorado tells KUNC’s Grace Hood that the state will not sign the agreement, but the public will have no access to the route information.

“We will be sharing it with appropriate state personnel, local emergency response personnel and local emergency planning committees as spelled out in the DOT order,” said Dave Hard, emergency management director for the state of Colorado.

Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said that, with regard to those states that don’t sign agreements, Union Pacific will refer them to the Federal Railroad Administration for clarification.

“A lot of it is for confidentiality because of the safety, security, as well as the business workings. A lot of the state agencies have been very responsive to that,” he said.

The new disclosure rules come as a result of growing concern after a spate of accidents, including one, in July 2013, that killed 47 people in a small Quebec community. The rules only pertain to shipments of Bakken crude which some believe is more flammable and dangerous than light crude coming out of other oil fields.

There’s been a huge spike in rail shipments from the Bakken in recent years, as existing pipelines cannot handle the increased oil capacity.

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