MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hoping to avert disaster before it strikes, two state lawmakers introduced plans Wednesday to deal with the growing threat from railroad oil tanker spills.

On average, ten oil tanker trains rumble through Minnesota each day, hauling huge quantities of North Dakota crude to refineries down south or out east.

As oil rail traffic increases, people like Kathy Hollander want action.

“This is oil transportation on steroids,” Hollander said.

And horrific scenes of oil train explosions in North Dakota and Canada have lawmakers responding before disasters like the one in Quebec strike.

“That train burned 47 people alive when it exploded. It incinerated the downtown of a city of 5,000 people,” said attorney Paul Blackburn.

Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble are proposing the “Oil spill Defense Act,” a law to give first responders the training and tools needed to combat massive oil fires.

“And beef up our state’s response which we feel right now is woefully inadequate due to our lack of preparedness and lack of resources,” Hornstein said.

The legislation will be introduced early in the session that begins in two weeks. They anticipate a number of hearings.

To equip and train all these firefighters, it’s estimated to cost between $15 and $30 million a year.

But instead of taxpayers flipping the bill, Hornstein and Dibble will propose a surcharge on each gallon of crude that passes through the state, which is about 1/100th of a penny per gallon.

Bill Hudson

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