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Congress to probe rail safety in wake of Casselton explosion

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under 1st District, Minnesota U.S. senators, Minnesota congressional Updated: February 10, 2014 - 3:22 PM

Both chambers of Congress will host hearings this month to probe passenger and freight rail safety in response to a spate of derailments involving tanks cars carrying crude oil.

Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, called for the hearings to examine the derailments, which rocked communities from New Mexico to New York.

For Klobuchar and Walz, the one that hit closest to home happened in December, when a train carrying crude oil ran off the tracks in Casselton, N.D., sparking a massive explosion that led authorities to evacuate the town.

A Senate subcommittee will meet Thursday to review "recent high-profile rail accidents, positive train control implementation and other key safety challenges," according to a release from Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.

“The recent derailments in North Dakota and Canada underscore the need to find commonsense ways to strengthen our rail infrastructure and protect communities near rail routes,” said Klobuchar, a member of the committee.

The House Transportation Committee will host a subcommittee hearing Feb. 26.

Walz, a member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, called for a hearing on the potential pitfalls of hauling crude oil and hazardous materials. Concerns from residents in La Crescent, a town in his southern Minnesota district with a highly-trafficked freight rail route, sparked his push.

“We must do everything we can to protect the communities that these hazardous materials are shipped through,” Walz.

Witness lists for the hearings have not yet been released, but federal regulators are expected to attend both.

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