MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The train derailment and fire on Wednesday, which forced the evacuation of a nearby small town, was the fifth this year involving North Dakota trains.
And since Minnesota takes more of those trains than any other state, lawmakers are under pressure to prevent derailments from happening here.
Gov. Mark Dayton called for beefed-up rail safety on Wednesday.
“There is going to be more and more of this,” the Democrat said. “It’s going to be every day and every night for the foreseeable future, which should be a source of major concern.”
An Associated Press review found at least 24 oil train accidents happened since 2006. Those incidents involved derailments, fires, significant fuel spills, and evacuations.
Yet, Minnesota is safer than it was a year ago. Railroads are stepping up inspections, and the federal government now requires tougher safety standards for thousands of rail cars carrying oil.
“What we know we can do is we can be better prepared,” said Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing).
Republicans are resisting the governor’s call for a major new tax on railroads to improve rail crossing safety.
They say it’s not related to derailments.
“The problem is [derailments are] not happening at rail grade crossings,” Kelly said. “They’re happening in North Dakota, outside the towns and rail grade crossings.”
Last year, Minnesota created two emergency response teams in Moorhead and St. Paul to immediately head into areas of oil train derailments.
This year, Republicans are proposing two more, in Duluth and St. Cloud.
And there’s still being done. Railroads say they’re spending $300 million on rail improvements