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After Wisconsin derailments, Mpls council members want oil train safety improved

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After a pair of train derailments spilled ethanol and crude oil in Wisconsin over the weekend, a trio of city council members in Minneapolis put out a call for rail safety improvements.

The resolution introduced at city hall by Minneapolis council members Kevin Reich, Lisa Bender, and Linea Palmisano urges Congress, railroad companies, and the Legislature to take more than 20 steps to improve communication and planning for an accident involving flammable material.

Among their demands, the council members want railroad companies hauling flammable material through Minneapolis to hold regular discussions with city officials to coordinate planning for an emergency.

They also want state lawmakers to authorize money to improve rail crossings and separate train and vehicle traffic.

The resolution notes two trends of the last few years: more oil is being hauled on trains and Minneapolis is becoming a busier railroad hub.

An estimated 326,000 Minnesotans live within half a mile of railroad tracks where oil or ethanol are hauled. That means they'd be within the evacuation zone if there were a spill, fire, or explosion.

On Monday night Anoka County commissioners directed similar concerns to the Metropolitan Council, urging them to help speed funding of railroad crossing upgrades, KSTP reports.

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KSTP also reported this week that five railroad companies whose trains pass through Minnesota have still not complied with a law requiring them to provide detailed spill response plans to the state.

The station says plans filed by the June 30 deadline were incomplete or redacted.

Lawmakers and fire departments have complained that the railroads' plans have not been made public. KSTP says a representative of BNSF Railway says the plans include confidential business information that the company does not release publicly.

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