‘Bakken 101’ a good initiative
A series of meetings in Minnesota to discuss the safety of oil trains originating in North Dakota’s Bakken oil play is symptomatic of states’ concern all along the rails that carry the volatile crude. Minnesota is one of several states, from Washington to Virginia, that are taking a new and intense look at the entire railroad oil transportation system.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton conducted the first of his sessions on the subject Monday in Little Canada. He and his staff focused on training, or the lack thereof, of emergency services personnel when it comes to oil train disasters. His rail safety roundtables will assess the level of capabilities, but the first session suggests Minnesota, like other states, has a long way to go for disaster responders to be up to handling an oil train derailment and fire of the sort that happened in Casselton, N.D., or the fatal fire and explosions in Quebec.
A similar session will be conducted in Moorhead, where much of North Dakota’s Bakken crude crosses into Minnesota by rail.
Regarding the charge that Bakken light crude is being singled out as more volatile than other grades of crude oil, Minnesota is in a unique dilemma. About 50 oil trains a day move through Minnesota, much of the traffic passing through densely populated urban centers. So the suggestion that Bakken crude is being singled out is silly because it is being singled out in Minnesota for the obvious reason that the trains traversing the state are filled with Bakken crude. The same situation exists in Washington state, where trains moving west out of North Dakota cross into the Pacific Northwest.
No one is suggesting a halt in transporting oil by rail. But because of the unprecedented number of mile-long oil trains moving out of North Dakota, localities and states along the tracks are playing catchup regarding safety and accident response capabilities. Dayton’s “Bakken Awareness 101” meetings are necessary responses to changes on the rails. The better states and cities are prepared, the safer their residents will be.