State Keeps Crude Oil Shipment Information From Public
2/11/2014 Related Story: Potentially Explosive Train Cargo Puts Tulsans At Risk
Since our first report in February the Feds ordered railroads to notify state emergency responders when trains carrying at least a million gallons of Bakken crude oil will travel through their communities. Oklahoma regulators said four railroads crisscrossing Oklahoma notified first responders of those massive shipments: Union Pacific, BNSF, Kansas City Southern and Stillwater Central Railroads.
Click here to read the railroads’ responses.
But we may never know exactly when those trains are traveling through our communities. The state of Oklahoma signed confidentiality agreements with the railroads, citing terrorism concerns. It's a move open records advocates dispute, claiming the public has a right to know.
"This is information they're entitled to know, and they need to know it. And in some ways, they have an obligation to know it. Because it poses a threat," said Joey Senat, an OSU Media Law professor and Freedom of Information Expert.
Senat believes Oklahoma's decision to keep the information private has nothing to do with terrorism and people should demand to know.
"This is about the inconvenience for the railroads, because if people knew what was coming through their towns they might protest that it not come right through the heart of small towns or big cities," said Senat.
Oklahoma's Department of Environmental Quality said they signed those railroad confidentiality agreements to keep shipment details out of the wrong hands. But after 6 Investigates pushed them for weeks to release the information, the state could be backing off that decision.
"The safety of Oklahomans is DEQs number one priority. We do recognize the public's right to know. We do want to release as much information as we can, but we have to figure out how to do it in a manner that we don't violate those confidentiality agreements with the railroad carriers," said Skylar McElhaney, ODEQ Spokesperson.
Atkins believes by keeping the information private, state officials are putting people at risk.
"This is a serious situation. Something needs to be done," said Atkins.
DEQ said it provided the routes the Bakken crude oil trains take to 20 Oklahoma Counties. The Tulsa fire department confirmed it has received that information.