Rep. Tim Walz said Wednesday he wants a congressional subcommittee to hold a hearing on rail safety after a spate of derailments last year, including an oil-carrying train that exploded after its wreck in North Dakota two weeks ago.
In a statement, Walz, a Democrat whose district stretches across the southern three tiers of Minnesota counties, said the topic came up when members of his staff met with residents of La Crescent earlier this week.
“We must do everything we can to protect the communities that these hazardous materials are shipped through,” Walz said in a statement.
Oil and railroad companies do not disclose the routes of trains carrying oil, citing security reasons, and state and federal regulators have gone along with that.
In a letter to Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. and chairman of the House subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials, Walz noted that the panel has not reauthorized a 2008 rail safety improvement act that authorized funding of federal railroad safety inspections. That funding ran out last September.
Walz cited several derailments, including one involving a Metro-North passenger train in New York that killed four people last month. He also noted the collision and derailment of an oil train near Casselton, N.D., that led to the spillage of 400,000 gallons of crude oil and fiery explosions.
“It’s a miracle that no one was injured after the accident in Casselton,” Walz said in his statement. “If nothing is done, next time we may not be so lucky.”
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241