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Midwest Opinion: Now get ride of those old tankers cars

From Forum News Service

An editorial from recent Minnesota newspapers.

Now get ride of those old tankers cars

RED WING — U.S. DOT's emergency order on estimated volume oil is a start.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order this month that railroads must provide states with estimates of how much oil moves through their borders in railroad tank cars. It's a start.

Anyone who watches the trains moving up and down the Mississippi River corridor knows that more and more are pulling black tanker cars from the booming oil fields of North Dakota. As the numbers of cars increase, so does the risk of disaster.

In issuing the order, U.S. DOT officials cited a "pattern of releases and fires involving petroleum crude oil shipments originating in the Bakken." The "releases" include the crude that dripped onto the tracks from Red Wing to Winona this winter from one of the thousands of old tankers that passed through town.

The emergency order signals to at-risk communities - including Red Wing and Lake City, Bay City and Hager City and points north and south along rail lines - that federal regulators are starting to get serious about the dangers.

Meanwhile, local responders worry. Even those from Goodhue and Pierce counties, which have among the best emergency training anywhere thanks to extensive work with the Prairie Island nuclear plant, know that no evacuation plan will prevent death and destruction if a multi-tanker explosion occurs here like those in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec and Casselton, North Dakota.

While the federal government has acknowledged the safety concern, the order doesn't go far enough: It urges - but does not require - shippers to stop using the older model tank car.

Let's be honest. Knowing how many cars are moving oil doesn't really mitigate the risk.

— Red Wing Republican Eagle