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

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.

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.”

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Ron Schalow on 03/20/2015 - 02:24 pm.

    The explosions don’t have to happen

    “If members of the group ISIS somehow infiltrated the United States and set off explosions with the same intensity in the same spots, certain political figures and CNN anchors might have a nervous breakdown on your TV set. But no, it’s just our own Big Oil and Big Rail doing their business…keep calm and carry on.”–Will Bunch


    “The state’s (North Dakota) three-person Industrial Commission seems likely to adopt a set of industry-designed best practices. Simply put, North Dakotan crude will have to be lightly pressure-cooked to boil off a fraction of the volatile “light ends” before shipment.”

    This conditioning lowers the ignition temperature of crude oil—but not by much. It leaves in solution most of the culprit gases, including butane and propane.

    Even the industry itself says conditioning would not make Bakken crude meaningfully safer for transportation, though it would make the state’s crude more consistent from one well to another.

    The only solution for safety is STABILIZATION, which evaporates and re-liquefies nearly all of the petroleum gases for separate delivery to refiners. Stabilization is voluntarily and uniformly practiced in the Eagle Ford formation in Texas…”–Railway Age

    Contact the North Dakota Industrial Commission & demand “STABILIZATION”… and insist that your city & state lawmakers (and firefighters) do the same…

    ND Industrial Commission

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/21/2015 - 12:01 pm.

    How many trains?

    Perhaps the number of daily oil-car trains from North Dakota through Minneapolis is down because of the swift drop in the price of crude. But the norm for our neighborhood in Southeast Minneapolis (the old Northern Pacific line that cuts a diagonal through the East Side of the city) is at least one or two trains per day, often more. That’s way more than the state’s too-low “average of 6.3” per day in the entire state.

    One would hope that the state would get their numbers correct. Although the railroads are notoriously uncooperative with any level of government, with so many decades of doing pretty much whatever they wanted.

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