Oil train splatters 12,000 gallons of crude along tracks in SE Minnesota

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will investigate a spill that left 12,000 gallons of crude oil splattered along railroad tracks between Red Wing and Winona.

The Associated Press says a report filed with the Department of Public Safety attributes the leak to a missing valve or cap on a tanker car of the Canadian Pacific train.

A spokeswoman says the MPCA has no major cleanup planned because no pools or concentrations of oil have been found along the 68-mile area of the leak. "It's like it spray painted oil," Cathy Rofshus told the AP.

The Winona Daily News reports the MPCA may send staff back to the area once snowmelt is underway to look for concentrations. Rofshus says protecting water – such as the Zumbro and Cannon Rivers – from contamination is a priority.

The Daily News says the 12,000 gallons that leaked is less than half the capacity of a typical tanker car.

By comparison, a crash and explosion involving an oil train near Casselton, N.D., in late December spilled more than 400,000 gallons. In that accident a soybean train that had derailed was hit by an oncoming oil train.

In testimony to a legislative committee this week North Dakota's director of homeland security described a communications "hiccup" that delayed a hazardous materials team's response to the incident, the Fargo Forum reports. The Forum says Greg Wilz also testified that North Dakota should have been faster about alerting Minnesota about the explosion and the plume of smoke headed into the state.

In a separate story Tuesday, Forum News Service took a closer look at the safety regulations governing rail transportation through the region. The amount of crude passing through Minnesota has soared since the boom in North Dakota's Bakken oil fields.

The story takes note of a recent statement from National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman, who said: “The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality.”

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