The Star Tribune's Jim Spencer reports in House subcommittee questions oil train safety after fiery crashes:
[House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials] member Tim Walz, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s First District, stressed the need to prevent accidents and rail car ruptures.
The tank cars now in use “have done their time,” Walz said. “We have better technology.”
Bakken is ‘new animal’
As for classification issues, Walz called Bakken crude “a new animal” for which testing protocols need to be worked out.
“One thing the public doesn’t understand is that this is a collaboration by necessity,” he said. “The railroads want to know what’s in there, and my first responders want to know what’s in there.”
Even if they know, Walz said communities where oil trains routinely pass lack the training and resources to deal with spills and explosions like one that occurred Dec. 30 in Casselton, N.D. In that crash, a mile-long oil train derailed and exploded, forcing the evacuation of thousands of citizens.
Walz said fire chiefs in his district have told him “there are probably not three fire departments in America that could respond to a Casselton-type of incident.”
Wednesday’s hearing sparked some verbal explosions as subcommittee members pressed regulators on when they would issue new standards to improve the safety of tanker cars. . . .
Roughly 70 percent of the oil coming out of North Dakota moves by train, and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said that trains will eventually carry 90 percent of the state’s crude to refineries.
Meanwhile, oil production in the Bakken Formation, which was less than 200,000 barrels per day in 2007, now approaches 1 million barrels per day.
While building the Keystone XL will allow 100,000 of those 1 million barrels per day to be transported by pipeline (most of the product sent through the Keystone XL wil be Canadian tar sand oil), it's no panacea for eliminating rail transport of crude oil through Minnesota.
Here's Walz's questioning from yesterday's hearings, where he relates his constituents' concerns drawn from meetings in LaCrescent and Winona:
Bluestem keeps thinking about the heating assistance hearing in opening dayof the Minnesota House, and how Representative John Persell (DFL-Bemidji), in his homespun diction, talked about reframing the energy debate. Aren't there ways--like solar power--that we can more immediately add value to natural resources like the sun, wind and water, rather than using fossil fuels, which are in the end are derived from the same source?
Photo: The Casselton ND oil train explosion.
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