Information about where crude oil trains travel through Maryland has revealed some details about the trains in Pennsylvania, according to information from Amtrak received under a public records request by McClatchy Newspapers.

Norfolk Southern operates trains carrying crude oil along an Amtrak passenger rail line east of Harrisburg, the newspaper found.

Crude oil routing information in Pennsylvania isn’t publicly available information, despite efforts by several media organizations to obtain it.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency denied PublicSource’s Right-to-Know request last month calling the data “proprietary” and “confidential” to the railroads. The agency also denied requests to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and McClatchy.

After a string of derailments involving trains carrying crude oil, federal regulators asked railroads to give routing information to states where they move trains carrying at least one million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

State officials in Pennsylvania and Maryland signed confidentiality agreements with the railroads shielding the information from the public.

But several states, including Washington, California, Montana and Virginia, have made it public.

More from McClatchy:

In Maryland, according to documents filed on July 23 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, state Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office had voided the confidentiality agreements that a state official had signed. However, both Norfolk Southern and rival carrier CSX contested the attorney general’s ruling and sought an injunction to prevent the imminent release of the records.

Amtrak owns or controls lines in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware that Norfolk Southern uses for freight. The national passenger railroad is subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Information CSX railroad gave to Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management shows that crude oil moves through Pittsburgh. CSX and Norfolk Southern are the two railroads that move crude oil through Pennsylvania.

A spokesman for CSX told PublicSource that while the railroad doesn’t operate unit trains (100 or more cars filled with only crude oil) through Pittsburgh, they do move mixed freight trains through the city that have the potential of holding more than one million gallons of crude.

Pennsylvania is a main destination for trains carrying Bakken crude because of refineries in Philadelphia and other East Coast cities.


Do you feel more informed?

Help us inform people in the Pittsburgh region with more stories like this — support our nonprofit newsroom with a donation.

Natasha is PublicSource's creative director. She runs the organizations visuals team, edits and produces interactive graphics, data visualizations and web packages for PublicSource. She manages the website...