FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Former North Dakota governor and Casselton native George Sinner said Wednesday that the derailment of crude oil tankers outside his hometown shows the "ridiculous threat" to communities across the state and elsewhere.
The accident happened when a train carrying soybeans derailed in front of a BNSF Railway oil train, causing that train to also derail and setting off a fire and series of massive explosions. There were no injuries, but Casselton residents were told to evacuate their homes as a massive plume hung over the town of 2,800 people.
Sinner, who was the North Dakota governor from 1985-92, is pushing for a special hearing with federal regulators and community leaders who are affected by oil train traffic in the U.S. and Canada.
In the meantime, the Democrat says speed limits for trains should be lowered and the railroads must take older, less reliable tankers out of service.
"We must get some changes. This is a ridiculous threat," Sinner told KFGO radio (http://bit.ly/JHwzij ). "Think of the people in Valley City and Jamestown and Bismarck. Every town like that is a sitting duck. If an explosion like that happened in any of those towns, God help us."
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth told The Associated Press that the rail industry has called for the older tank cars to be phased out and supports new tank car standards and proper shipper labeling of the classes of crude oil.
"BNSF believes that every accident and injury is preventable which is why we have worked so hard to reduce rail accidents and injuries to record low levels on BNSF and in the rail industry as a whole," McBeth said. "We will continue to driver further safety improvements based on the results of the investigation into this accident, as we have in the past, as we regard even one such incident as one too many."
Another derailment involving some crude oil tankers was reported Wednesday in a sparsely populated area of New Brunswick, Canada. No injuries were reported.
"The railroads have to help figure out what they can do and get it done," Sinner said. "If society has to make this decision, it ain't going to be pretty for the railroads."