BNSF says it won’t fight release of oil-train info

  • Mon Jun 23rd, 2014 4:57pm

By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer

OLYMPIA — Snohomish County residents should get a better idea Tuesday about how often BNSF Railway is transporting large amounts of Bakken crude oil through the community.

A BNSF official said Monday that the company would not try to block release of information on Bakken shipments provided to the state under a new federal rule.

The company had until Monday to seek an injunction against disclosure of the document, which state officials have said is a public record.

“We think it is very important that those responsible for security and emergency planning have such information to ensure that proper planning and training are in place for public safety, but we also continue to urge discretion in the wider distribution of specific details,” said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

State emergency management officials intend to post the information online Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in May ordered railroads to provide states a “reasonable estimate” of the number of trains expected to travel through each county, each week. The rule applies to trains that each carry more than 1 million gallons of Bakken crude, which is equivalent to about 35 tank cars. Railroads are not required to provide the days and times of the shipments.

BNSF Railway, the dominant carrier north of Seattle and to points east, averages one-and-a-half to two trains loaded with Bakken going to “facilities in the Pacific Northwest in a 24-hour period,” Melonas has said. BNSF has not disclosed how much of that crude is transported in those shipments.

Tacoma Rail earlier informed the state it moves about three trains of Bakken crude oil in Pierce County each week. That report appeared online Monday.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.