What’s Inside Maine Freight Trains? Public Can Only Hazard a Guess

Portland Press Herald
February 26, 2023

Due to an exemption from the state's Freedom of Access Act, Maine residents are prevented from reviewing information regarding the transportation through their communities via freight trains of potentially hazardous materials. Rail industry officials had agreed to provide annual reports of train contents to state emergency response agencies, but a 2015 public record law enacted by the Maine Legislature, citing security risks, shields the reports from public inspection.

An Excerpt

Sigmund Schutz, an attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues and sometimes represents the Portland Press Herald, said the exemption seems to be “an overly broad protection that sweeps away too much information out of the public eye. . . . Recent events in Ohio show why this was a bad idea from day one and ought to be revisited by the Legislature at the first opportunity.” 

Schutz said the lack of even basic information makes it harder for the public to assess whether their communities are adequately prepared for an emergency. “If we don’t know what’s going on, how can we make an informed judgment about whether what we’re doing now is appropriate?” he asked.