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BNSF sending up to 19 crude-by-rail shipments each week through Washington state


BNSF is sending as many as 19 oil trains a week, each carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude, through Washington state, according to a disclosure the railroad filed with the state, including up to 13 trains through heavily populated King County, where Seattle is located.

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The disclosure, required under an emergency order issued by the US Department of Transportation in May, was posted on the state's Emergency Management Division website late Tuesday.

Short-line railroad Portland and Western Railroad also disclosed moving three oil trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude each through Washington.

Washington is among a handful of states to post details about oil trains moving through them, despite requests by BNSF and other railroads to keep the routing information and crude-by-rail volume figures private for security reasons.

Montana is scheduled to post online its oil train information later Wednesday, while Virginia on Monday posted details about CSX's crude-by-rail movements through its state, as Platts previous reported.

Under an emergency order issued by US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in response to several derailments and accidents involving oil trains, railroads are required to inform states about how many trains transporting more than 1 million gallons of crude are traveling through them and what routes they are using.

The information is to be shared with state emergency responders to allow them to better anticipate and respond to any incidents, particularly as concerns arise over the growing volumes of crude-by-rail shipments through heavily populated areas.

But several railroads, including CSX and BNSF, have asked states not to provide some of that information to the general public, in some cases threatening legal action against states if they do so, according to local media reports.

Some states, such as California, New Jersey and Colorado, have signed confidentiality agreements with the railroads, while others, including Washington, have not.

BNSF spokeswoman Roxanne Butler said in an emailed statement that the railroad would no longer legally fight with states to prevent public disclosures of its crude-by-rail movements, but stressed that such information is extremely sensitive.

In its disclosure filed with Washington, BNSF labeled each page with headers that said "Sensitive Security Information" and "Railroad Restricted Material."

"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," Butler said.

Washington on Tuesday had posted a disclosure from short-line railroad Tacoma Rail, which said it is moving three trains/week through Pierce County carrying between 2.5 million and 3.4 million gallons of crude each. The railroad said it receives unit train deliveries of Bakken crude from BNSF into its main terminal yard tracks in Tacoma.

--Herman Wang,
--Edited by Jason Lindquist,