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ND regulator wants state to monitor oil trains

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm •  Published: June 27, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota should employ its own railroad safety inspectors to help the federal government monitor crude oil shipments coming from the state's booming oil patch, a state regulator said Friday.

Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the idea is aimed at preventing fiery oil train crashes like the one outside Casselton in December that left an ominous cloud over the town and led some residents to evacuate.

"This is a big issue on everybody's mind," Fedorchak said. "Everybody has seen these accidents."

Fedorchak said she is crafting a plan that would add at least two inspectors in the state on top of the inspections already done by the Federal Railroad Administration.

"I'm not saying that the feds are not doing a good job," Fedorchak said. "More eyes on the job are better than fewer."

FRA spokesman Michael Cole said 30 states already provide supplemental safety inspections to the agency and it welcomes more. The FRA does not does not reduce its efforts in a state that elects to employ state rail safety inspectors, he said.

"It's up to states if they choose to," Cole said. "We provide training and guidance."

Cole said the agency has about seven inspectors that cover the Bakken oil region of western North Dakota and eastern Montana, a staffing level that's stayed the same over the past decade despite soaring crude shipments.

North Dakota's oil production is more than 1 million barrels of oil daily and about 75 percent of it is being shipped by rail. Railed oil shipments in North Dakota began in 2008 due to lack of pipelines to move it to market.

Fedorchak said state inspectors could help check the labyrinth of more than 3,000 miles of track in the state.

"Tracks by far are the largest contributor to accidents," she said "That clearly shows me that's where we should start."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said he's open to Fedorchak's proposal and may support funding in his budget for the next Legislative session that begins in January.

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