Regulators: Railroads must disclose oil train data

Federal regulators are reminding freight railroad companies that they are obligated to tell states and tribes when they plan to move large volumes of crude oil through the areas.

The mandate was first handed down in May 2014 for trains carrying 1 million gallons or more of oil, and was retained in the new comprehensive oil train rules from the Department of Transportation in May.


But railroads have fought the requirement, saying that exposing the data in a way that subjects it to public records disclosures can compromise security and competitive information.

In a Wednesday letter, the Obama administration cracked down, saying that while it thought about removing the disclosure rules, they are still in place.

“Although the preamble to the May 2015 final rule contemplated that the emergency order would end in early 2016, the department has since announced that the emergency order will remain in full force until DOT makes the notification requirements permanent through rulemaking,” Sarah Feinberg, acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration, said in the letter sent to major railroads.

“To be clear: railroads transporting crude oil must continue to provide the information required by the emergency Order to [states],” she said. “These notifications should also be updated in a timely manner, as specified in the order and subsequent frequently asked questions.”

Officials will continue making random audits and compliance checks to make sure railroads are sticking to the rules, Feinberg wrote.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxHillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE said transparency is a key component of the way the Obama administration regulates oil train safety.

“DOT is committed to making certain that states and local officials have the information they need to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials, including crude oil,” he said. “The emergency order that requires these notifications still stands, and we expect railroads to fully comply.”