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The DOT 111 cars that contained the oil are designed to carry nonpressurized loads of a variety of liquids. Federal authorities have called them inadequate for hazardous loads and many are being replaced with safer models. It appears that none of the cars involved in the accident were of the newer, reinforced design, Sumwalt said.
Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailments had happened within city limits. He said it is time to “have a conversation” with federal lawmakers about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.
“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we’re going to have an accident, it’s when. We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort.”
North Dakota is the No. 2 oil-producing state, trailing only Texas, and a growing amount of that is being shipped by rail. The state’s top oil regulator said earlier this month that he expected as much as 90 percent of North Dakota’s oil would be carried by train in 2014, up from the current 60 percent.
The number of crude oil carloads hauled by U.S. railroads surged from 10,840 in 2009 to a projected 400,000 in 2013. Despite the increase, the rate of accidents has stayed relatively steady. Railroads say 99.997 percent of hazardous materials shipments reach destinations safely.
A train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch crashed in Quebec last summer and 47 people died in the ensuing fire.
Shipping oil by pipeline has to be a safer option, McConnell said Tuesday.
The railroad has set up a claims center for residents and businesses affected by the derailment and evacuation.
This article contains information from the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434