James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

Feds prod railroads to cough up more info on oil trains

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: May 8, 2014 - 9:43 AM

Since I wrote about the issue in my first column Sunday, I was intrigued to see the federal government's emergency order Wednesday that will force railroads to give state emergency managers detailed information about where and when they ship oil trains. The fiery derailments in Quebec, North Dakota, Virginia and elsewhere have gotten the attention of politicians, and they are zeroing in on the disclosure question.

Minnesota Rep. Frank Hornstein told my colleague David Shaffer that “We don’t know what is going through our communities, not even the emergency responders know." Hornstein thinks the railroads should tell the public about as well, just like pipeline operators and hazardous waste generators already do, but the federal order does not go that far. Still, I'm glad to see what Hornstein called the "loophole" of community right-to-know getting some real attention.

You can read the DOT order here.

Above: CSX tank cars that derailed last week in Lynchburg, Va., came to rest in the James River (photo by Autumn Parry/The News & Advance via AP)

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