Editorial: Meetings about railroad safety should be open

Most businesses working in Oregon have a good understanding of the laws that require Oregon government to make decisions in public.

One exception is Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

Here’s what happened, according to The Oregonian, at a meeting Tuesday of an Oregon task force looking into railroads’ disclosures of hazardous materials. “Wouldn’t it be easier if the press wasn’t here?” asked Pat Brady, director of hazardous materials for BNSF.

Sure, it would be easier. It’s always easier to do things hidden from the public. That’s why governments sometimes try to do it. For instance, that’s why the committee considering options for Bend’s Mirror Pond wanted to close its meetings to the public.

But Oregonians are legally entitled to know what their government is up to.

We can understand some of the concerns of railroad companies. They don’t want information about hazardous railway shipments to get into the wrong hands. There are also federal rules that prevent them from getting too specific about what they pick up where.

But Oregonians do have the right to a public discussion over what sort of disclosures should be made to the state and what information should be released to the public.

Just a few months ago, it took U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., showing up at a meeting of first responders in Bend before BNSF began taking steps to disclose what hazardous shipments come through Central Oregon.

Put that incident together with the attitude at the meeting this week and, BNSF’s track record, so to speak, is unimpressive.