Governor to meet with community leaders, emergency managers across Minnesota to discuss rail accident prevention and preparedness efforts
ST. PAUL, MN – Today, Governor Mark Dayton held the first in a series of statewide railway safety meetings in Little Canada. Governor Dayton met with local leaders and emergency managers to review the state’s new railway safety laws and to discuss other ways the state can partner with communities to strengthen safety requirements and improve disaster preparedness. In the coming weeks, the Governor will host similar discussions with community leaders and emergency managers along heavily-traveled freight rail routes across Minnesota.
An average 50 trains carrying millions of gallons of crude oil cross through Minnesota communities every week – travelling through rural and agricultural communities, densely-populated residential communities, and urban centers. These trains have a history of dangerous accidents in nearby states and provinces. In December 2013, a 20 car oil train exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, forcing 1,400 residents to evacuate. And, in July of last year, a North Dakota oil train passing through Quebec exploded – killing 42 people and destroying 30 buildings.
Recognizing the risks these trains have posed to residents in neighboring states and provinces, last session Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature implemented new railway safety measures. And last month, the Governor voiced his support for the swift implementation of new federal railway safety regulations recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
New State Railway Safety Laws
On July 1, 2014, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety began implementing new rail safety legislation signed into law by Governor Dayton last May. The new laws will enact stricter oversight of railroad companies, require more railway inspections, and provide for better emergency response training and preparedness in communities across Minnesota. Those measures include:
Prevention Plans Required – Requires railroad companies to submit disaster prevention plans to the state of Minnesota. This new law will require companies transporting hazardous materials to develop safety measures that help keep Minnesotans and the environment safe.
Increased Safety Inspections – Increases the number of railway inspectors at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, paid for with an annual assessment on railroad companies.
Emergency Response Training – Requires railroads to provide emergency response training every three years to every fire department located along oil train routes. This training will help ensure Minnesota firefighters are prepared to respond to a disaster. This law also requires the Department of Public Safety to continue to provide training and response preparedness to emergency responders. This is paid for through an assessment on railroads and pipelines.
Planning Emergency Responses – Requires railroads to file emergency response plans with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and to update these plans.
Improving Response Capacity – Requires railroads to deploy enough equipment to clean up within a specified time period any spills or leaks that may occur. This means that those who cause accidents or disasters will be held responsible for cleaning them up.