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State Promises Union Pacific Confidentiality For Crude Train Data

Nat Hamilton/WHYY

In the wake of recent derailments and explosions of crude oil trains, state officials will start receiving information about when those trains are moving through their states. The federal Department of Transportation issued an emergency order in early May, requiring the railroads to share information with states about the routing of any shipments of Bakken crude oil over a million gallons. It goes into effect Saturday. But in Wyoming, if the crude oil is being moved by Union Pacific, the state won’t be sharing that information with the public.

The state has signed a nondisclosure agreement with that railroad, agreeing to only share the information provided with local emergency responders. Other states asked to sign similar agreements have refused, saying it’s a violation of their public disclosure laws, but Wyoming Director of Homeland Security Guy Cameron says he considers the movement of crude trains sensitive security information, and therefore exempt.

“Should there be a sense of concern for a terroristic act, the law gives us the appropriate and lawful ability to deny a request, based on that concern,” Cameron says.

He couldn’t elaborate on why crude trains would be more vulnerable to attack than other infrastructure, like pipelines, that are publicly disclosed. The railroads have consistently declined to share information about crude oil shipments with the public, citing security and competitive disadvantage.

Cameron says BNSF, the other major rail company operating in the state, has not requested a similar nondisclosure agreement. As of Friday aftenroon, neither railroad had notified the state of plans to ship large amounts of Bakken crude oil through Wyoming. 

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