Dayton moves up railway inspection
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday the state is making the inspection of a railway carrying increased amounts of crude oil through downtown Minneapolis a top priority.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday the state is making the inspection of a railway carrying increased amounts of crude oil through downtown Minneapolis a top priority.
Dayton said his staff was notified that anywhere from 11 to 23 trains carrying crude oil were being redirected through the Twin Cities by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway per week because of construction on other routes in northern Minnesota. While he acknowledged the change was within BNSF’s right as owner and operator of the railway, he expressed his displeasure at the lack of notification during a Thursday press conference.
“The fact that nobody brought this to our attention, I don’t think it was deceptive,” Dayton said. “They’re used to doing what they want to do, and communities have to begrudgingly accept it.”
Dayton said he spoke earlier that morning with Carl Ice, president and CEO of BNSF, and said he was told the company would continue to inspect the newer route as part of its safety protocol.
The route was due for inspection by the state in mid-November, but Dayton said that timetable has been accelerated to late this week or next week.
“I’m not going to rely on (BNSF inspections). We’re going to shift some state inspections to focus on this area so we can rely on what we have,” Dayton said.
Tanker cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota to refineries have been involved in several explosive derailments in recent months.
Earlier this week, in a letter to Ice, Dayton said 99,000 more Minnesotans live within a half-mile of the new route, which should have evacuation plans in place in the event of a derailment or spill. The governor’s frustration was compounded by the fact the railway in question was not a part of a Department of Transportation study done in 2014 to assess grade crossings and railways for hazardous material transportation because it was not identified then as a corridor for shipping Bakken crude oil.
“The crossings were not a high priority (for inspection) because we didn’t know that this volume of oil cars were being moved here,” Dayton said.
Dayton said Ice “gave (him) the impression” the change is temporary, and that rail shipments should normalize at the end of construction season.
Until then, Dayton says Ice should know who to call in case BNSF’s plans change.
“I gave him my home phone number,” Dayton said. “I told him that if there are any changes in the routing in Minnesota, I expect him to call me directly himself.”