Oil trains have derailed in North Dakota and Minnesota in recent years, causing injury and damage, prompting personal injury lawsuits. Oil from the North Dakota Bakken oil field is mostly shipped in tanker cars by the railroad. North Dakota does not have sufficient pipeline capacity to carry away the growing Bakken Oil Field crude oil output.
North Dakota is the second highest oil producing state (behind Texas). The quick growth in North Dakota crude oil production is unprecedented. Along with that growth has come collateral dangers such as rail tank car derailments and oil spills. Personal injury lawyers have gotten involved in order to hold the railroad and the oil companies accountable for the massive damage the spills have caused.
Massive Bakken crude oil spills, fires, and damage after tank car train derailments prompted the NTSB to issue new tank car standards in March 2012. But, the oil industry resisted safer tank cars as recently as 2014 because of the cost of retrofitting existing tank cars.
Mile long trains of oil tank cars regularly travel through North Dakota and Minnesota on BNSF and Canadian Pacific tracks. The crude oil is bound for refineries on the American east and south coasts and the Canadian coasts.
The danger of injury and damage from hauling crude oil from the Bakken oil field is not being ignored, even though the oil business has created jobs and growth in North Dakota. Concerns for the safety of oil tanker cars on the railroad have been raised even by people who depend on rail for jobs, commerce, and transport. The North Dakota governor demanded more stringent standards for railroad tank cars in January, 2013. At that same time, the three-person North Dakota congressional delegation urged federal regulators to address safety concerns quickly.
The NTSB recommended after a 2009 tank car derailment in Illinois that rail tank cars should be upgraded to be more puncture resistant in order to prevent deadly spills and fires.
A train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Casselton, ND, (just west of Fargo) in December, 2013, spilling 400,000 gallons of crude oil in that small town. The accident caused the evacuation of the entire town. 18 tankers were punctured and some exploded in huge fireballs. Damage was estimated at $6.1 million.
In March, 2013, a mile-long train derailed near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil in Minnesota’s lake country. The Canadian Pacific Railway said only one tanker ruptured, and that its capacity was 26,000 gallons. However, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency produced photos showing several tankers laying on their sides, documented three leaking tank cars, and estimated 20,000 – 30,000 gallons of crude oil had leaked onto the ground.
The oil train derailments are not limited to Minnesota and North Dakota. In July, 2013, a train carrying Bakken oil field crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. The railroad tank cars exploded and burned for three days. The accident killed 47 people and incinerated part of the town. Canadian officials noted that the Bakken crude behaved in an abnormally volatile manner, perhaps because of acid and chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing extraction procedure.
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