MN lawmakers demand oil train disaster response plans in wake of Heimdal crash


State lawmakers have called on rail operator BNSF to provide details of how it would respond to an oil train disaster in Minnesota, following this week's fiery crash in North Dakota.

A BNSF train carrying 107 cars of crude oil from the Bakken derailed in the tiny town of Heimdal on Wednesday, causing up to 10 cars to catch fire in what was the second major oil train crash the state has seen in the past 18 months.

Now, 39 Minnesota lawmakers have written to BNSF demanding the information it had agreed to provide back in January, details describing the company's emergency response procedures for "worst case scenario" oil train disasters should they occur in Minnesota.

Furthermore, the House and Senate lawmakers want the company to tell the legislature about the level of catastrophic insurance coverage the company maintains in the event of crude oil train accidents, spills and explosions.

Finally, they want to know how the company determines and analyzes the routes through Minnesota that trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials will take.

"The safety of our communities is of urgent concern to us," the letter says, insisting that BNSF responds by June 1.

The letter comes after a series high-profile crashes involving trains carrying highly explosive crude from the Bakken oilfields.

Growing calls for safety improvements

Fifty oil trains pass through Minnesota every week, and a report by the Department of Transportation said that safety issues with the trains are likely to result in approximately 10 derailments every year for the next 20 years.

The federal government has called for an "aggressive schedule" to replace some of the aging and unsafe cars carrying the oil, including the model of cars that caught fire in Heimdal this week.

On Thursday, Sen. Al Franken called on operators to provide more information to the public and first responders on oil train movements through the state.

But the Star Tribune reports that recent rule changes could actually make it harder for Minnesotans to learn about crude oil movements through their communities. The changes to mandatory railroad reporting requirements could limit imformation about oil train routes, numbers and load sizes, the newspaper notes.

Next Up


Judge orders Minnesota gym that defied shutdown to close

Attorney General Keith Ellison sued the gym after it remained open.

montana cutbank

Charges: Man shot victim 'without provocation' using sawed-off shotgun

The incident happened on Nov. 24 in Ten Lake Township, located in Beltrami County.

Governor Tim Walz

Watch live: Walz, first responders address Minnesotans

Some departments have been forced to shift staffing or suspend service due to COVID-19.

covid-19, coronavirus

CDC says COVID-19 quarantine period can be cut to 10 or 7 days

You can come out of a 7-day quarantine following exposure provided you've had a negative test.

maple grove fire

1 person found dead inside Maple Grove business that burned down

A person had been unaccounted following the fire that destroyed Hanson Implement and Storage Tuesday night.

One-dollar bill, cash, money

Appeals court rules MN high school students can get unemployment benefits

They've been denied the benefits, and some were even asked to pay them back.

covid-19, coronavirus

Dec. 2 COVID-19 update: 77 more deaths in Minnesota

The death toll is closing in on 3,700 in Minnesota.

City Pages

Fan creates City Pages archive, Star Tribune tells him to remove it

After word spread that the defunct newspaper's website would go down, a fan created his own copy. Then he got a cease and desist letter.

Adam Thielen

Vikings activate Adam Thielen off COVID-19/reserve list

The star receiver missed last week's victory over Carolina.

Screen Shot 2020-12-02 at 10.27.14 AM

Naked man shot by St. Paul cop is charged for sexual assault of ex-girlfriend

The 31-year-old suspect remains at Regions Hospital after being shot.

Lindsay Whalen

Whalen's Gophers start season with only 7 players available

Whalen isn't happy that a transfer wasn't granted immediate eligibility to play.