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DoT Reverses Ruling on Railroad Crude Oil Transportation Disclosures

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The Department of Transportation has reversed a ruling that would phase out a requirement that railroads must disclose publicly when they’re transporting crude oil. The Rural Blog reports that the rule will now remain in effect. Media outlets have raised concerns about trains transporting crude oil through dangerous or populated areas. The number of oil train spills has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing from 25 in 1975 to 141 in 2014. Railroads had been attempting to convince the Department of Transportation to allow them to stop disclosing when they are carrying oil.

The department at first agreed, but reversed its decision after eight senators sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The letter was written after first responders voiced concerns about the measure.


In response to this story Ed Greenberg of the Association of American Railroads responded with the following points:

  • About 85 percent of the releases you reported involved spills of less than 5 gallons. Some of them are as small as one-eighth of a gallon or one cup. 
  • Freight railroads report all spills, even one teaspoonful is required to be reported. By contrast, hazardous liquid pipelines, also regulated by PHMSA, don’t have to report releases under five gallons except in special circumstances.
  • Freight railroads support providing information to relevant members of the emergency response community for preparedness and training, and have been informing emergency officials of what is being transported through their communities for years. 
  • The concern has been with making it public. The freight rail industry feels making crude oil route information public elevates security risks by making it easier for someone intent on causing harm.