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Exclusive: Oil sector withholds information about rail cargoes - U.S. regulator

By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. transport regulators on Friday criticized the oil industry for not sharing important information about the kinds of rail shipments that were involved in a number of recent fiery derailments.

In letters with regulators and testimony to lawmakers, leaders of trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute have said since January that they will share results of their tests on fuel from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch, where the derailed trains were loaded.

But despite those assurances, the Department of Transportation said, the oil industry has largely declined to cooperate with regulators trying to understand why several recent fuel derailments led to explosions of uncommon force.

"Despite the energy industry making assurances to DOT more than two months ago, we still lack data we requested and that energy stakeholders agreed to produce," a spokeswoman told Reuters.

"The overall and ongoing lack of cooperation is disappointing, slows progress, and certainly raises concerns."

An oil industry representative on Friday said that examining North Dakota crude was an ongoing process. "We continue to do prospective testing, and we will continue to share that information," the representative said.

Technicians with the Department of Transportation have in recent months been running spot-checks at wellheads and loading terminals in North Dakota to check that fuel on the tracks is being handled properly, but officials say they need industry data to best understand the situation.

In early January, the department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warned that the light fuel typically produced in the Bakken could be more volatile than traditional heavy crude oil.

By late January, the American Petroleum Institute said it would "share expertise and testing information with DOT, most notably PHMSA, about characteristics of crude oil in the Bakken region."

The Department of Transportation says that has not happened.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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