Tacoma Rail discloses Bakken oil shipment info

SEATTLE (AP) — Tacoma Rail has told Washington state that it moves about three unit trains of Bakken crude oil in Pierce County each week, information that federal transportation officials have ordered released to help emergency responders prepare for accidents.

Tacoma Rail, a short-line railroad owned by the city of Tacoma, disclosed the information to the state this month; it said the three unit trains move only in Pierce County. The unit trains each consist of 90 to 120 tank cars. A tank car typically carries about 28,000 gallons.

State emergency management officials posted the information online Monday and released it to The Associated Press under the state public records law.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to notify state officials about the volume, frequency and county-by-county routes of trains carrying 1 million or more gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada.

In the meantime, railroads have convinced some states to sign agreements restricting the information's release for business and security reasons. But Washington state officials didn't sign confidentiality agreements submitted by BNSF Railway or Union Pacific Railroad.

Instead, state officials said they would release the information if requested under the state public records law unless the companies sought a court injunction to block the information's release.

BNSF Railway has until the end of Monday to do so, but company spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said in an email Monday that "BNSF does not intend to file an injunction."

That company's information is expected to be available Tuesday, if no injunction was sought, state officials had previously said.

Wallace said that it's ultimately a decision for the federal government and the Washington State Emergency Response Commission to determine how such information is controlled or released.

"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."

Union Pacific Railroad has told the state it does not move enough Bakken crude oil to meet the reporting threshold.

Tacoma Rail said it receives Bakken crude oil deliveries from the BNSF Railroad into its main terminal yard tracks. Dale King, Tacoma Rail's superintendent and chief operating officer, said Monday that the Bakken crude oil comes from North Dakota and goes to the U.S. Oil & Refining Co. in Tacoma. The refinery was recently acquired by TrailStone.

The Portland and Western Railroad, a short-line railroad that operates in Oregon along the Columbia River, has also submitted such information to Washington.