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State says 326,000 Minnesotans live in potential danger zones near oil rail routes

Officials say those living within a half mile of the train tracks might have to be evacuated in case of derailment and an oil spill .

State officials say 326,170 Minnesotans live within one-half mile of a rail route that carries North Dakota crude oil, and therefore might be at risk in case of derailment and an oil spill.

The numbers from the state Department of Transportation come as legislators are considering ways to improve safety along those rail corridors that carry the oil through Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

About 65 fire departments in the affected areas have received training in oil train and pipeline safety, but there are 340 departments that serve areas along oil train tracks, said the Fargo Forum.

Those within one-half mile of tracks are considered in the danger zone, should there be a derailment and spill or fire.

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State officials say an average of 6.3 trains a week carry western North Dakota crude oil through Minnesota. A train with 110 tank cars would carry 3.3 million gallons of oil, the paper said.

Most of those North Dakota oil trains come through Moorhead and the Twin Cities; some go south through the Willmar area. Oil from Canada comes through International Falls and goes through Duluth.

DFL state Reps. Paul Marquart and Frank Hornstein have introduced bills that would require more money from the railroads in an effort to:

  • improve public safety in rail corridors across the state;

  • provide property tax relief to communities who are confronting rail safety issues;

  • and continue efforts to improve fire safety preparedness in communities across the state.

Hornstein said: “The oil and rail companies that are profiting from this traffic should help pay for some of the risk.”