SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

January 1, 2014

Safety questions after ND oil train derailment

CASSELTON, N.D. (AP) — A fiery oil train derailment’s near-miss of a small North Dakota town had its mayor angrily calling for federal officials to do more to guarantee the safety of the nation’s growing shipment of oil by rail.

Government regulators defended their record on moving hazardous materials by rail, noting that 2012 was the safest year in the industry’s history. But oil trains have bucked that trend, thanks in part to the massive amount of oil being moved out of western North Dakota, where the industry’s rapid growth is far outpacing pipeline development.

No one was hurt when the mile-long BNSF Railway train derailed Monday afternoon near the eastern North Dakota town of Casselton, but the overturned tankers — exploding and engulfed in plumes of flames and black smoke for more than 24 hours — burned so hot that emergency crews didn’t even attempt to put out the blaze. Most of Casselton’s roughly 2,400 residents agreed to temporarily evacuate due to concerns about unsafe air.

“This is too close for comfort,” Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell said yesterday.

While the overall rate of oil train accidents remains low — less than 0.1 percent of crude-carrying tank cars have suffered accidental releases this year — there’s been a sharp increase in the number of releases over the past several years. That’s driven by a surge in drilling for unconventional shale oil in North Dakota and other western states.

Through early November, the most recent data available, crude releases have been reported from 137 rail cars in 2013, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal accident records. By comparison, only one release was reported in 2009, before the boom got well underway.

The rail tracks in eastern North Dakota run through the middle of Casselton, about 25 miles west of Fargo. McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailments had happened within the town.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Police in helicopters spot marijuana plants in Salem, Peabody PEABODY -- The state police buzzed over Peabody by helicopter this week and spotted marijuana plants growing outside a home on St. Ann's Avenue. A ground unit was alerted and cut down the plants. The operation was part of regular "marijuana eradicati

    August 1, 2014

  • 140801_SN_DLE_BEVDEPOT3.jpg Beverly MBTA garage opens

    Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Mike Cahill opened the new MBTA parking garage Friday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the roof.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sex offender found in New Hampshire

    The Level 3 sex offender who allegedly cut off his GPS bracelet and absconded after he was spotted with a 16-year-old boy, in violation of his probation in a child rape case, has been arrested in Manchester, New Hampshire.

    August 1, 2014

  • State sets tax holiday BOSTON -- Shoppers will get a holiday from the state sales tax on Aug. 16 and 17, after state lawmakers finally agreed on a weekend. The tax-free holiday has been an annual event since 2004, with the exception of 2009, when the state raised the sales

    August 1, 2014

  • crab Little green invaders threatening local clam flats IPSWICH -- The green crab is eating our lunch. It's been eating its way through Northeastern shellfish for years, and some local experts are worried that the undersized crustacean, about 31/2 to 4 inches across, has reached critical mass. The creatur

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos