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Crude oil railroad tank cars

A line of tank cars with placards indicating they carry crude oil are shown on BNSF Railway tracks.  Oil trains typically enter Nebraska from Sioux City, where these cars were photographed, then travel south and turn east at Ashland until they cross back into Iowa at Plattsmouth, or travel south through Lincoln, then southeast to Rulo.   

WASHINGTON — Nebraska will continue to make public information railroads submit on Bakken oil train traffic within its borders after U.S. Department of Transportation warned railroads that they must continue to notify state emergency response agencies of large crude oil shipments.   

The department imposed the requirement in May 2014 after a series of fiery oil train derailments. It was supposed to help state and local emergency officials assess their risk and training needs.

The rail industry fought to have the requirement dropped, and it appeared it got its wish three months ago in the department’s new oil train rule. But facing backlash from lawmakers, firefighters and some states, the department announced it would continue to enforce the notification requirement indefinitely and take new steps to make it permanent.

"After reviewing the emergency order, the guidance from the (department and the Federal Railroad Admministration) and confirming with the attorney general’s office, the information we obtain from the railroads pertaining to the order should remain public," said Tonya Ngotel coordinator of Nebraska's State Emergency Response Commission, in an email. 

The emergency order requires the railroads to report the weekly frequency of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude, about 35 tank carloads, the routes they use and the counties through which they pass. The railroads must update the reports when the volume increases or decreases by 25 percent.

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