Transportation

States Hide Safety Failures Over Routing Data on Crude Oil Trains

Just over a year after an oil-train explosion in Quebec killed 47 people, information on the threats oil trains present to public safety is starting to seep through a long blackout in which railroads convinced pliable federal regulators that the public was better off not knowing. Journalists from the AP and McClatchy FOIA'd information loose from Amtrak on Maryland and Pennsylvania, two of the states that have been reluctant to disclose.

"Ships To Slow Down Off California To Save Whales And Cut Pollution"

"A program being launched off the California coast this summer will tackle two environmental problems posed by thousands of cargo ships that ferry goods to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each year: Not only are the hulking vessels major sources of air pollution, their shipping lanes overlap with a prime feeding area for migrating blue whales off Santa Barbara."

Source: LA Times, 08/08/2014

Fresh Secret Reports from the Congressional Research Service

Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.

Many States Hide Rail Hazmat Threats from Public at Companies' Behest

It's not like you can't figure these things out. Trains full of explosive crude oil, for example, may be obvious as a string of 100-odd identical black tankers rolls through populated areas. The number on the DOT-required diamond-shaped flammability placard on each car probably has the number 1257 on it. But it's not just crude oil that's an issue.

"Influence Game: Shaping Railroad Safety Rules"

"WASHINGTON — A string of fiery train derailments across the country has triggered a high-stakes but behind-the-scenes campaign to shape how the government responds to calls for tighter safety rules. Billions of dollars are riding on how these rules are written, and lobbyists from the railroads, tank car manufacturers and the oil, ethanol and chemical industries have met 13 times since March with officials at the White House and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration."

Source: AP, 07/14/2014

Will Safety Trump Secrecy in Oil-by-Rail?

Should firefighters and residents know whether trains loaded with explosive oil are routed through the heart of residential districts? Many railroads say no, claiming it is a security issue. But on June 18, 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dismissed that claim, saying that oil train routing was not sensitive security information. Yet the railroads are fighting back.

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