The number of trains carrying at least a million gallons of crude oil across eastern Nebraska each week has more than tripled since the summer.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1xGUGi1 ) that BNSF railroad recently provided updated figures to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
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BNSF said it is moving about a dozen oil trains through eastern Nebraska each week. That's up from three trains a week last summer.
Railroads went from hauling 9,500 carloads of crude oil in 2008, to 435,560 in 2013, as production boomed in places like North Dakota that didn't have adequate pipeline capacity. That number of shipments continued to grow last year, but final 2014 carload statistics aren't yet available for crude oil.
Officials from BNSF and Nebraska are planning an emergency response exercise for first responders along the oil-train routes in the state, likely in September.
Federal transportation officials ordered freight railroads last spring to notify states about trains carrying at least a million gallons of crude oil after a string of fiery derailments. The worst of those derailments was a 2013 incident in a small Canadian city in eastern Quebec, where 47 people died after 60 cars derailed and exploded.
Federal regulators are working to finalize new standards for the railroad tank cars that are used to haul crude oil, and those rules are expected soon.
Union Pacific officials have said none of their trains crossing Nebraska carry enough crude oil to require reporting.
In addition to increased traffic, BNSF reported a second route through eastern Nebraska that allows some trains to avoid Lincoln. BNSF says it is now carrying crude oil through Sarpy County on a route that runs from Ashland east through Louisville to Plattsmouth before continuing south in Iowa.
The original route BNSF reported for crude oil crosses 11 Nebraska counties: Dakota, Thurston, Burt, Dodge, Saunders, Cass, Lancaster, Gage, Johnson, Pawnee and Richardson.
BNSF said four to eight trains a week take the eastern route to Plattsmouth. Between zero and four trains head south to the corner of Nebraska each week.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com