Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Maryland State Court Orders Public Disclosure of Railroad Shipment Information

On August 14, 2015, the Baltimore City Circuit Court held that information about crude oil movements by rail must be publicly available in accordance with the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA).

In 2014, Norfolk Southern Railway Company (Norfolk) filed a lawsuit against Maryland Department of the Environment (Department) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in order to prevent the Department from publicly disclosing Norfolk’s DOT notification records under the PIA. On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an Emergency Restriction Order requiring railroad companies to provide the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) with information regarding train movements “for each state in which it operates trains transporting 1,000,000 gallons or more of Bakken crude oil.”

Following the Emergency Order, Norfolk signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Department. Subsequently, the Department proposed to release Norfolk’s notification records arguing that the non-disclosure agreement was invalid. Norfolk contended that said notification records were confidential commercial information and their disclosure would likely cause substantial competitive injury. It also argued that the notification records contained trade secrets.

The Court concluded that Norfolk’s DOT notification records did not contain either confidential commercial information or trade secrets because the information is not specific to Norfolk’s operations.

Further information on the case is available at docket no. 24-C-14-004367 or http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquiryByCaseNum.jis

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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