BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. transportation officials said Wednesday that details about volatile oil train shipments are not sensitive security information, after railroads sought to keep the material from the public following a string of fiery accidents, including one last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered railroads to give state officials specifics on oil-train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents.
Railroads have convinced some states to sign agreements restricting the information’s release for business and security reasons.
But the Federal Railroad Administration determined the information is not sensitive information that must be withheld from the public to protect security, said Kevin Thompson, the agency’s associate administrator.
Thompson added that railroads could have appropriate claims that the information should be kept confidential for business reasons, but said states and railroads would have to work that out.
Montana officials said they intend to publicly release the oil-train information next week.
The move is mandated under the state’s open records law and will help protect public safety by raising community awareness, said Andrew Huff, chief legal counsel for Gov. Steve Bullock.
“Part of the whole reason the federal government ordered that this information be given to states is to protect the communities through which these trains roll,” Huff told The Associated Press. Washington state officials also have said the oil-train details should be made public under state law.