PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two railroads ran a total of three oil trains per week through Oregon's most populous county, a disclosure railroad companies fought to keep from public release.
Documents released Thursday also show the rail lines are capable of moving nine trains per day through the state.
The records, which show how much crude oil from the Northern Rockies was carried by train through Oregon, were released after a monthlong battle over the documents between media outlets that requested them and Oregon public officials, who said the material was protected by federal law.
The records show BNSF Railway moved three oil trains through the county that includes Portland in the first and second week of June, and those trains continued north to Columbia County.
The records were provided to the U.S. Department of Transportation after the agency 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.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the company has taken flak for its transport of oil, but he said the company is merely moving a consumer good that's in high demand and has no say in what it transports.
"BNSF is a responsible carrier of this bulk product that the marketplace is demanding," Melonas said. "As a common carrier, (by federal law) we don't control what we haul, but we control how we haul it."
Melonas pointed to safety improvements to tracks that cost the company $300 million, and he said the oil is being transported through "isolated" areas.
BNSF was obligated to make the disclosures because it moves more than 1 million gallons of Bakken oil per train through parts of the state. Two other railroads, Pacific Western and Union Pacific, also responded to the Transportation Department requests. The Pacific Western line takes the three BNSF trains with Bakken crude through Columbia County.
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