North Dakota discloses oil train shipment details

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North Dakota discloses oil train shipment details
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013, file photo, a BNSF Railway train hauls crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont. The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads last month to give state officials specifics on oil train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents. North Dakota's State Emergency Response Commission unanimously voted to release the state's information Wednesday June 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2013 file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D. A new Minnesota law aims to protect the state from hazards created by increasing amounts of oil passing through Minnesota by rail and pipeline. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill Tuesday, May 20, 2014. The law requires railroad and oil pipeline companies operating in Minnesota to help pay for training and emergency preparedness programs. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File)
FILE - This May 1, 2014 file photo shows the site where several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River near downtown Lynchburg, Va. U.S. Railroads forced to turn over details on crude oil shipments are asking states to sign agreements not to disclose the information but some officials are refusing, saying it should be public. Federal officials last month ordered railroads to make the disclosures following a string of fiery tank car accidents in North Dakota, Alabama, Virginia, Quebec and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, file)
Firefighters and other first responders are familiarized with tank cars on the CSX Safety Train in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson River to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A State Fire instructor watches as firefighters spray fire suppressant foam to douse flames on a tanker truck in a simulated oil-spill fire during a drill on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Firefighters are getting some practice battling crude oil fires as part of stepped-up efforts by the Cuomo administration to address safety threats from increased rail shipment of highly flammable crude from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. The Port of Albany has become a major hub for crude oil transport, with oil trains arriving daily on routes that cross the state from the west and north. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Firefighters and other first responders are familiarized with tank cars on the CSX Safety Train next to the Hudson River in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Firefighters and other first responders attend a safety class on the CSX Safety Train in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson River to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Firefighters and other first responders are familiarized with tank cars on the CSX Safety Train in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson River to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Michael Bethge of CSX Transportation familiarizes firefighters and other first responders with a tank car on the CSX Safety Train in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson River to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Firefighters spray fire suppressant foam to douse flames on a tanker truck in a simulated oil-spill fire during a drill on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Firefighters are getting some practice battling crude oil fires as part of stepped-up efforts by the Cuomo administration to address safety threats from increased rail shipment of highly flammable crude from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. The Port of Albany has become a major hub for crude oil transport, with oil trains arriving daily on routes that cross the state from the west and north. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
FILE - This Nov. 6, 2013 file photo shows a warning placard on a tank car carrying crude oil near a loading terminal in Trenton, N.D. A trade group that represents North Dakota oil drillers is unsure how a new federal emergency order on rail shipments will affect oil production. The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, required railroads to inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
Firefighters spray fire suppressant foam to douse flames on a tanker truck in a simulated oil spill fire during a drill on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Firefighters are getting some practice battling crude oil fires as part of stepped-up efforts by the Cuomo administration to address safety threats from increased rail shipment of highly flammable crude from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. The Port of Albany has become a major hub for crude oil transport, with oil trains arriving daily on routes that cross the state from the west and north. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2013, file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D. The Federal Railroad Administration says inspectors in North Dakota have found more than 13,000 defects and have written 721 violations against BNSF Railway since 2006. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp asked the agency for the data following the fiery oil train derailment in Cassdelton. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File)
A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment Monday, Dec 30, 2013, in Casselton, N.D. The train carrying crude oil derailed near Casselton Monday afternoon. Several explosions were reported as some cars on the mile-long train caught fire. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
Photo taken August 20, 2013 shows a freight train pulling out of the Hess Gas Plant in Tioga, North Dakota. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
WILLISTON, ND - JULY 26: Oil containers sit at a train depot on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. North Dakota has been experiencing an oil boom recently, bringing tens of thousands of jobs to the region, lowering state unemployment and bringing a surplus to the state budget. Train yards are one of the primary ways oil is exported from the state. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Photo taken August 20, 2013 shows a freight train pulling out of the Hess Gas Plant in Tioga, North Dakota. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Que., Saturday, July 6, 2013. A large swath of Lac Megantic was destroyed Saturday after a train carrying crude oil derailed, sparking several explosions and forcing the evacuation of up to 1,000 people. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013. A large swath of Lac Megantic was destroyed Saturday after a train carrying crude oil derailed, sparking several explosions and forcing the evacuation of up to 1,000 people. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
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By JAMES MacPHERSON and MATTHEW BROWN
Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Dozens of mile-long trains loaded with crude are leaving western North Dakota each week, with most shipments going through the state's most populous county while en route to refineries across the country.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads last month to give state officials specifics on oil train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a pattern of fiery accidents involving trains carrying crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana had created an "imminent hazard" to public safety.

Most notable of those was an oil train derailment last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

Railroads that fail to comply with the order are subject to a $175,000 fine per day and are prohibited from hauling oil from the Bakken region until they do so.

Officials in Montana, California and Florida also released information on oil trains Wednesday in response to requests from The Associated Press.

CSX Corp., Union Pacific and BNSF Railway sought to prevent states from turning over the information, saying details on the shipments are security sensitive. But officials in North Dakota and some other states refused, citing public records laws.

"There is no legal basis to protect what they have provided us at this point," North Dakota assistant attorney general Mary Kae Kelsch said. "It doesn't meet any criteria for our state law to protect this."

Federal officials have said the notifications required of railroads under Foxx's order are not security sensitive but may include proprietary details that should be kept confidential.

North Dakota's State Emergency Response Commission unanimously voted to release the state's information Wednesday.

Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz, who chairs the 18-member emergency panel, said "it doesn't take a rocket scientist" to figure out how many oil trains are running through communities in the state, the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas. He said release of the data won't come as a surprise to most residents.

"Joe can stand on a street corner and figure that out within a week's period," Wilz said. "They watch the trains go through their community each and every day."

Trains, each pulling more than 100 cars laden with about 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude, began running in 2008 when the state first reached its shipping capacity with existing pipelines and infrastructure. More than 70 percent of the more than 1 million barrels of oil produced daily from the Bakken region is being moved by rail, as producers increasingly have turned to trains to reach U.S. refineries not served by pipelines and where premium prices are fetched.

Railroads hauling Bakken crude in North Dakota - BNSF, Canadian Pacific Railway and Northern Plains, a regional short-line railroad - were ordered to submit information to the state. Data show that the three railroads combined are moving crude through about 30 of North Dakota's 53 counties, including through the state's biggest cities of Fargo and Bismarck.

Fargo is in Cass County, where BNSF says it has been averaging more than 40 oil trains a week this month.

Among other states, documents from Montana showed that BNSF oil trains have passed through 30 of the state's 56 counties. Roosevelt County topped the list, with 20 trains in one week.

In California, documents provided by the state's Office of Emergency Service showed as many as nine BNSF trains in a week through nine counties. In other weeks, just one BNSF train or none at all traveled through the state. Comparable details on Union Pacific's operations in California were not yet available.

Florida's documents showed three trains per week passing through Escambia County on the Alabama border, en route to a transfer station in Walnut Grove.

BNSF, a unit of billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., hauls about 75 percent of the oil that leaves the Bakken by train, North Dakota officials said.

Some states have signed confidentiality agreements or otherwise pledged not to release the information, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

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Brown reported from Billings, Mont. Josh Funk in Omaha, Neb., and Gosia Wozniacka in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.

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