ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — In the wake of fiery derailments in Canada and North Dakota, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed into law a measure requiring railroad and oil pipeline companies operating in the state to help pay for training and programs to prepare for emergencies.
The law empowers the state to collect a total of $2.5 million annually from railroad and oil pipeline companies until July 1, 2017. That money will help first responders get ready for derailments and spills involving oil and other hazardous substances.
That news is a relief to Scott Braith, chief of the volunteer fire department in Staples, Minnesota, a town of about 2,900 on a major freight line which sees 70 to 100 trains a day, some carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale fields.
"This new legislation requires them to contact us directly and do onsite training," said Braith, who commands 25 firefighters. "That is what we are looking for."
The law provides for new safety measures that include $2 million for at-grade crossing improvements such as gates and signals, the addition of three more rail-safety inspectors — which railroad companies also will pay for by providing about $936,000 over three years — a one-time $1.6 million expenditure for other rail and pipeline safety actions, and increased lighting in areas where trains with more than 25 tanks of hazardous material are assembled and dissembled.
Minnesota now has only one rail inspector for the entire state, so the new law will bring that number to four.