Opinion

Public should have access to oil-train information

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A string of accidents involving trains carrying relatively volatile crude oil from what is known as the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana has heightened public concern about those trains and where they are traveling across the country.

The accidents, combined with a sharp increase in the number of trains carrying oil shipments, prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation in July to propose new rules, such as phasing out or retrofitting the tank cars that carry the oil to meet new standards, new rules for braking capability of the trains, and limiting the speeds for those trains.

Even before that, however, the DOT issued in May a requirement that trains carrying more than 1 million gallons of oil notify local emergency responders when those shipments travel through their states. One question that has arisen from the requirement is whether the public should have access to that information, which is supposed to include expected train traffic, the volume of Bakken crude being carried and the routes those trains take. The reasoning is that the information would help local emergency response officials prepare for any incidents that pose a danger to the public.

At this point, West Virginia officials have sided with the rail companies to keep the public in the dark, the same stance that some other states have taken…

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