Skip to main content

Local first responders are 'not prepared' to deal with an oil train disaster

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Minnesota's emergency responders have said they are not fully prepared to deal with oil train or pipeline disasters.

Firefighters and other first responders say they need better training to handle a major incident involving the transportation of oil through Minnesota, according to a Department of Public Safety report released Thursday.

While rail companies and the state's hazardous material teams said they have procedures in place, local governments "generally do not have the equipment or personnel to respond to a significant oil transportation incident."

DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein said the report is a "wake-up call," according to the Star Tribune, with first responders giving an average score of 2.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 for preparedness in case of oil accidents.

It follows a series of highly-publicized derailments involving trains carrying oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota in recent years.

Each week around 50 oil trains carrying a million gallons of crude oil pass through Minnesota, from North Dakota or Alberta, on the way to refineries in southern and eastern United States, with the majority of these going through the Twin Cities.

The report into first responder preparedness was ordered in response to the growing number of trains across the state, as well as expansions of pipelines from North Dakota and Canada, the Star Tribune notes.

"It is alarming that emergency officials in local communities rate their area's preparedness for an oil transportation incident as below moderate," Sen. Scott Dibble said, according to Detroit Lakes Online.

"We need to make it a high priority for our local emergency agencies to have the tools, information and training to keep our communities and themselves safe."

Low oil prices won't stop trains

The report comes after a state railroad expert told senators that the recent fall in oil prices will not mean fewer oil trains traveling through Minnesota anytime soon, according to the Pioneer Press.

A handful of rigs in the Bakken have closed down as oil prices have gone into freefall, leading to average gas prices of just $1.93 per gallon across Minnesota. But the majority remain operational and will stay that way, in spite of the greater challenge to turn a profit.

Dave Christianson, of MnDOT, told a senate committee Wednesday that it is difficult to restart a rig once it's been shut down, so most will continue to operate even when prices are low.

When prices recover, he says, the number of oil trains could well increase, the newspaper reports.

Next Up

University of minnesota sign

U of M gives some students 50% off meals for September after complaints

Students have complained about an array of issues surrounding dining halls.


Gallery: Sprawling estate near Superior National Forest listed for $2.9M

The property has been in the same family for over 60 years.

Screen Shot 2022-09-27 at 2.51.49 PM

Surgery clinic proposed to replace 111-year-old farmhouse in Eagan

A developer is proposing to transform the remnant farm property.

Hurricane Ian

Why Hurricane Ian could be catastrophic in Florida

Hurricanes are the atmosphere’s biggest show of force and energy, and Hurricane Ian is no exception.


Suspect arrested after man and dog shot on St. Paul's East Side

The shooting happened around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.


Bemidji police appeal to find missing teenager

Tahlia Poitra was last seen Wednesday.


Crisp & Green owner launches new chain, with 12 MN locations planned

Steele Brands already owns and operates Crisp & Green and Stalk & Spade.


New vendor to open at Rosedale Center food hall

POTLUCK Food Hall offers a rotating collection of local restaurants and food retailers.


Woman charged in drunk driving incident that killed Minnetonka HS alum

Nate Stratton, 20, died from his injuries on Sept. 18.