Tag Archives: North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple

BNSF: if you live in a city of 100,000 or more, you might be just a TINY BIT safer – others, not so lucky

Repost from WDAZ TV, Grand Forks ND
[Editor:  By announcing these measures, BNSF is trying to put a happy face on continuing potential for train catastrophes.  These measures won’t help much, and notice they still are expecting an oil industry  “phase-out” of DOT-111 cars rather than an immediate ban.  – RS]

BNSF trains slow down: Railway announces plans to improve safety measures for oil shipments

By April Baumgarten / Forum News Service, Mar 29, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.
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Bismarck, ND (Forum News Service) – One of the top rail companies in the U.S. has announced steps to improve rail safety in North Dakota.

BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose outlined plans recently with Gov. Jack Dalrymple to implement additional measures throughout the company’s national rail system. BNSF also informed its customers on Friday about the safety measures, according to a news release.

“Railroad operations, equipment and maintenance are critical elements in our overall goal to improve rail safety, and I commend BNSF for taking these significant steps,” Dalrymple wrote in the release. “At the same time, we must move forward on other important aspects of rail safety including the need for new federal tank car standards and greater pipeline capacity.”

BNSF began a move Wednesday to have all of its oil trains reduce speeds to 35 mph through all municipalities with 100,000 or more residents. The speed reduction is temporarily in place until its customers phase out DOT-111 tanks cars from service, BNSF spokesman Mike Trevino said Saturday. Phasing out of the older cars, which will be replaced by CPC-1232 railcars to meet federal safety standards, is expected to begin in May, and BNSF hopes to complete the process by the end of the year. When that happens, BNSF will reconsider the speeds.

The shipping companies, not BNSF, own the cars, so the railway company has to wait on its customers to make the transition to the newer cars. The move was a voluntary part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Trevino said.

“What we want to do is do what we can to improve the safety of our operation,” he said. “What we can do is slow those trains down in larger communities.”

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said it was good to see BNSF taking proactive action to address railroad and safety weaknesses, though there are other measures he would like to see rail companies consider.

“I think many of our rural communities would also argue that their lives are no less at risk,” he said.

The only city in North Dakota that would fall under the reduced-speed measure is Fargo. The state’s largest city had an estimated population of about 113,700 people in 2013, according to the U.S. Census. Bismarck, the second largest city, had 67,000. Grand Forks, which is a collector for train traffic at its switch station, was home to about 55,000 residents.

“That doesn’t do a whole lot to secure our other communities,” Mock said.

Slowing the trains down in all communities would reduce the amount of product BNSF could ship and would burn up time, Trevino said. It would also impact trains hauling other commodities, such as grain or anhydrous ammonia. He added the measures go beyond the federal standard.

“If you slow those trains all around the network, then that (network) becomes as fast as that train,” he said.

Residents in Grand Forks feel uneasy when they see the “iconic-black, cylindrical tanks,” Mock said. Fortunately, Grand Forks has a train junction for switching lines, and many trains are coming through at a slow speed, meaning risk of a derailment is greater in cities where trains are traveling at higher speeds.

Still, residents are still curious and ask, “what if.”

“When a person sees a train rolling through town that has those iconic-black tanks running a mile long, there is a little apprehension,” he said.

Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, said he was pleased when progress is made, adding he is comfortable with the governor’s response.

“If he feels the railroads are taking positive steps, that’s always good,” Maragos said.

Trevino said BNSF has also increased rail detection testing frequencies 2 ½ times federal standards, which tests the quality of the rail. It has also reduced tolerance for removing a car from a train for a potential defect, meaning the bar is set higher for a car’s quality and safety features.

For example, if a wheel is defective, it may be removed from the train immediately.

Previous derailments

Both North Dakota and rail companies have come under fire after several oil trains have derailed across Northern America, the most infamous being the Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailment in July 2013. A runaway Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train carrying Bakken crude went off the tracks and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying the center of the city.

Closer to home, a BNSF train carrying crude hit a derailed grain train in December 2013 near Casselton, forcing it off the tracks and resulting in a fiery explosion. No injuries or deaths were reported, though a temporary evacuation was put into place. It was the fifth derailment near the city in 10 years, and another BNSF train with lumber and empty crude cars derailed in November.

Both trains used DOT-111 cars.

More recently, a CSX Corp. train derailed Feb. 16 near Mount Carbon, W. Va. Two Canadian National Railway Co. trains derailed in Ontario between February and March.

As a result, both Canada and the U.S. have looked into implementing measures to prevent disasters. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued orders to phase out the DOT-111 cars. While that is not expected to occur until May, Dalrymple urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a recent phone call to issue the new tank standards “as soon as possible,” according to the release. Dalrymple also told Foxx that pipelines offer the safest mode of transporting crude oil to market.

Action in North Dakota

North Dakota has also attempted to tame the flames. The state Industrial Commission unanimously approved a requirement for all oil producers to install and utilize oil-conditioning equipment to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude. The order would bring the vapor pressure of every barrel of oil produced in North Dakota under 13.7 pound per square inch before it is shipped. Crude producers must comply starting Wednesday.

Dalrymple and the Public Service Commission have also proposed a state-run railroad safety program and pipeline integrity program “that would complement federal oversight in North Dakota,” according to the release. The proposal would cost North Dakota $1.4 million for three position to inspect railroad tracks. Another three state employees would inspect pipelines that transport oil and other liquids to market.

Dalrymple’s release also comes the same week the North Dakota House voted down legislation requiring the state Department of Transportation to report on rail safety issues to a legislative committee. Senate Bill 2293, sponsored by Sen. George B. Sinner, D-Fargo, proposed spending $6 million every two years to carry out committee recommendations, but was criticized by Republicans because was “an unnecessary, duplicative requirement” since DOT already conducts studies, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, told Forum News Service this week.

The House voted down the bill 34-55 on Monday. Mock was disappointed with the bill’s failure, stating it was “incredibly shortsighted for the Legislature to fail that measure.”

“The legislators owe it to the people back home to get these reports on a more timely basis — find out what companies, like BNSF, are doing and make sure we are updated on the progress of railroad safety enhancements.” he said.

Sinner said the release is likely a response to the press coverage of SB 2293’s failure, and voting the bill down was political. While North Dakota has started to address the issues, Sinner said the state needs to do more.

He pointed out that all the legislators that voted against the bill were Republican.

“(The Republicans) have not offered one bill on rail safety this Legislature,” he said. “We need to have a bipartisan effort on this issue. This issue is too important.”

Maragos, who also supported the bill, said the state is addressing safety issues as they come to light. While it was hard for him to say if what leaders are doing is enough, he feels the state is doing everything it can to prevent accidents.

“For some people, it is never enough,” he said. “For others, it’s pushing too hard.”

He added: “When we see that isn’t enough, we’ll just move in to improve or strengthen the policies.”

Making rail safety a priority

BNSF plans to invest more than $335 million in track maintenance and capital improvement projects in North Dakota this year, including in Dickinson, Jamestown, Devils Lake and Hillsboro.

There are many products that are shipped from the state across the continent, Mock said, and other states are looking to North Dakota for assurance that cargo is packaged correctly.

He pointed to a derailment in Minot, where a Canadian Pacific train carrying anhydrous ammonia derailed on Jan. 18, 2002. The incident released approximately 146,700 gallons of anhydrous, and a poisonous gas cloud hovered over the city, causing the death of at least one person and injuring more than 322 people, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report. The disaster also prompted an evacuation and caused more than $10 million in damages and environmental remediation.

Mock said had he not been allowed to leave work an hour early due to a slow night, he would have been caught in the fumes.

“Railroad safety is not just a Bakken crude issue,” he said. “The one state that should be taking railroad safety the most seriously is North Dakota, because our reputation is on the line.”

Like residents across the state, Mock would like to see more done. Railroad safety is a comprehensive issue that requires realistic standards, he said.

About 90 percent of North Dakota’s exports go out on rail, Sinner said. If a train carrying cargo from the state has an accident that could have been prevented, North Dakota’s industries will be affected, he added.

“The economic security of this state relies on the rail industry,” he said.

Maragos said the railroad companies are doing what they can to improve safety.

“With the amount of rail traffic and understanding that mechanical things break, even (BNSF), which is moving most of the oil, I think they are very sensitive to it, and I think they’re the best job they can in addressing safety concerns,” he said.

Trevino concurred, stating BNSF is doing everything it can to keep communities and its employees safe.

“We understand how to run our railroad,” he said. “We understand better than anyone the kinds of steps that can be taken to prevent loss, to mitigate potential loss, should an event occur, and respond to an event.”

Though Sinner is not sure to what extent, he said he plans to follow the issue closely and find ways to improve railroad safety.

“We need to do something with the increase in rail traffic and trains traveling around our state,” he said. “We need to make sure rail safety is a real priority.”

The Press was unable to contact Dalrymple on Saturday.

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    North Dakota will rely more on pipelines by 2018

    Repost from UPI Business News
    [Editor: Significant quote: “Dalrymple said rail traffic may drop off once new pipeline infrastructure comes online. Three pipelines — Sandpiper, Dakota Access and Upland — should be in service by 2018”  – RS]

    North Dakota reviews oil-train safety

    About half of the oil produced in the state is delivered by rail.

    By Daniel J. Graeber   |   March 19, 2015 at 9:40 AM
    North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple calls for tighter rules to ensure safe transport of crude oil from state’s Bakken shale reserve. Photo by Steven Frame/Shutterstock

    BISMARCK, N.D., March 19 (UPI) — There’s no way to offer a single solution that would allay concerns about the safety of crude oil transit by rail, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said.

    Dalrymple spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss efforts to improve the safe transport of crude oil by rail from the state. The Republican governor said he called on the secretary to adopt new standards for rail cars carrying crude oil as soon as possible.

    “Secretary Foxx and I agree that there is no single solution to improving the safety of rail transportation,” Dalrymple said in a statement Wednesday.

    North Dakota crude oil production is more than existing pipeline capacity can handle, forcing many in the industry to use rail as an alternative transit method. The increase in rail traffic has in turn led to an increase in derailments involving trains carrying crude oil, a situation compounded by federal reports showing oil from the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota may be less stable than other types of crude oil.

    A 200-page proposal from the Department of Transportation last year called for the elimination of older rail cars designated DOT 111 for shipment of flammable liquid, “including most Bakken crude oil.”

    A February derailment in West Virginia involved a train carrying Bakken oil. At least 40 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in the 2013 derailment of a train carrying tankers of crude oil from North Dakota to Canadian refineries.

    Dalrymple said rail traffic may drop off once new pipeline infrastructure comes online. Three pipelines — Sandpiper, Dakota Access and Upland — should be in service by 2018 and provide 895,000 barrels per day in new capacity.

    North Dakota produces about 1.2 million bpd and about half of that is shipped by rail.

    The state government in December approved a new measure that requires oil producers in North Dakota to install equipment at their facilities that would reduce the volatility of Bakken crude.

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      New Death Count Projections for Bakken Oil Train Disasters?

      Repost from The Coalition for Bakken Crude Oil Stabilization

      New Death Count Projections for Bakken Oil Train Disasters?

      By Ron Schalow, January 13, 2015
      The Coalition for Bakken Crude Oil Stabilization
      Facebook: The Coalition for Bakken Crude Oil Stabilization

      Firefighters, Emergency Personnel, Lawmakers, and Media:

      Last June (2014), North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple called disaster agencies and emergency personnel together for a “tabletop exercise” to practice a response to a possible Bakken oil train derailment, and the subsequent explosions. They estimated there would be more than 60 deaths if such an incident occurred in Bismarck, ND (65,000 pop.) or Fargo, ND (110,000 pop.).
      http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/19629/
      http://news.prairiepublic.org/…/inside-energy-making-bakken…

      I don’t know the times, locations, or other variables, in the exercise calculations, but I can envision places in Bismarck and Fargo where the death count might be zero at certain times of the day. I could also think of cases, especially in downtown Fargo, when thousands would be in the blast zone.

      There were 47 deaths in Lac-Megantic (6,000 pop.) after a Bakken oil train derailed on July 6, 2013. Dozens of downtown buildings were incinerated, but due to the late hour, most of the people who died were assembled at one place of business.
      http://www.bing.com/videos/search…

      Then, on December 9th, 2014, all three North Dakota Industrial Commission members signed Order No. 25417.
      http://www.nd.gov/ndic/ic-press/dmr-order25417.pdf

      “This order will bring every barrel of Bakken crude within standards to improve the safety of oil for transport,” said Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, in a joint statement.

      Considering the improved safety, North Dakota officials should have updated projections of fatalities for Fargo and Bismarck. They would know the June variables and the change in composition of the contents of the tanker cars, due to the new Order. You could extrapolate the information to predict the deaths and damage for your community.

      What’s the new number for casualties? These people should know…

      North Dakota Industrial Commission
      701-328-3722
      ndicinfo@nd.gov

      Governor Dalrymple’s Chief of Staff
      Ron Rauschenberger
      701-328-2222
      rrausche@nd.gov

      Governor Dalrymple’s Director and Policy Advisor
      Jeff Zent
      701-328-2424
      jlzent@nd.gov

      Lynn D. Helms, Director
      Department of Mineral Resources
      701-328-8020
      lhelms@nd.gov

      Oil and Gas Division
      701-328-8020
      oilandgasinfo@nd.gov

      North Dakota Department of Emergency Services
      701-328-8100
      nddes@nd.gov

      Cass County (Fargo) Emergency Management
      Dave Rogness
      701-476-4065
      rognessd@casscountynd.gov

      Fargo Fire Department
      Steve Dirksen Fire Chief
      701-241-1540
      sdirksen@cityoffargo.com

      Burleigh County (Bismarck) Emergency Management and Homeland Security
      Mary H. Senger Emergency Manager
      701-222-6727
      msenger@nd.gov

      Bismarck Emergency Management Division
      Gary Stockert Emergency Manager
      701-221-6804
      gstockert@bismarcknd.gov

      Bismarck Fire Department
      Joel Boespflug Chief
      jboespfl@bismarcknd.gov

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        The difference between oil “conditioning” and oil “stabilization”

        Repost from The Daily Yonder, Speak Your Piece
        [Editor: Ok, I knew North Dakota regulators were working on regulations to get rid of volatile gases in the crude they ship by train, but I didn’t pay attention: I missed understanding the difference between oil “conditioning” and oil “stabilization.”  If Ron Schalow is right, North Dakota officials are far from fixing the problem of volatile crude oil “bomb trains.”  This is an important distinction – read on….  – RS]

        North Dakota’s Other Oil Boom

        North Dakota regulators could lessen the danger of crude-oil explosions that have killed bystanders and damaged property. Instead, the state’s Industrial Commission is likely to allow oil producers to continue shipping dangerous crude across North America when a commonly used fix is possible.
        By Ron Schalow, 11/24/2014
        A train carrying crude oil killed 47 people when it derained and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013. | Photo by Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

        The safety of millions of Americans who live, work or play within a mile of tracks where Bakken oil trains run are in the hands of three mortal men.

        Unfortunately, these men make up the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

        “It’s a little like the Wild West up in the Bakken, where everybody gets to do what they want to do,” says Myron Goforth, president of Dew Point Control LLC, in Sugarland, Texas. “In the Eagle Ford (Texas shale play), you’ve got to play by the rules, which forces the oil companies to treat it (crude) differently.”

        Not in North Dakota, where oil regulators are finally feeling pressure to require the Bakken oil producers to render the trains non-explosive. The push comes six years after the first massive Bakken oil train explosion outside of Luther, Oklahoma, and seven months since the last, in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, where a quirk of physics turned the exploding tanker cars towards the river, sparing many people and buildings.

        Making the trains safer has been possible all along. It seems that politicians in some states don’t want their citizens or towns incinerated, nor do they wish to watch property values drop in the meantime.

        Will the North Dakota Industrial Commission act?

        Spoiler alert: No.

        The Bakken crude needs to be “stabilized,” to remove all explosive “natural gas liquids” such as ethane, propane and butane. That requires billions of dollars in additional equipment and infrastructure, and the oil companies don’t want to pay for it.

        Stabilization is a standard practice in many other parts of the United States. And it’s a required part of preparing crude for shipment via pipelines. The explosion risk North Dakota’s lack of regulation imposes on railroad communities all over North America is completely unnecessary. And requiring stabilization would a further boost to the state’s economy. But that’s not enough for the commission.

        Instead, the commission is going to sell a different process called “conditioning,” which the oil companies have been doing all along. And conditioning doesn’t do the job, unless you think that job should include towering fireballs, mushroom clouds, charred buildings and graves.

        Railway Age explains the difference well:

        This conditioning lowers the ignition temperature of crude oil—but not by much. It leaves in solution most of the culprit gases, including butane and propane. Even the industry itself says conditioning would not make Bakken crude meaningfully safer for transportation, though it would make the state’s crude more consistent from one well to another.

        The only solution for safety is stabilization, which evaporates and re-liquefies nearly all of the petroleum gases for separate delivery to refiners. Stabilization is voluntarily and uniformly practiced in the Eagle Ford formation in Texas.

        And, right on cue, on November 13 North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms presented the North Dakota Industrial Commission with proposed new standards (there never were any old standards) to “condition” the Bakken crude, supposedly for the purpose of making the Bakken oil trains non-explosive. Or somewhat less explosive, kinda not explosive, or to get the height of the fireballs down into double digits… I don’t know.

        A crude-oil train derailed and exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the spring of 2014. Photo by Elyssa Ezmirly

        But, if the goal is to render the Bakken oil trains NON-explosive, the proposal to “condition” the crude isn’t going to cut it.

        I repeat, the producers have always “conditioned” the crude, but, evidently, now they’re going to be “forced” by the North Dakota Industrial Commission to turn the knob a few notches to the right, and everything will be peachy.

        If it was that simple, perhaps they should have done that before dozens of people got killed – maybe sometime shortly after the first Bakken oil train derailed and blew sky high in 2008.

        Commission Chair and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has so much faith in “conditioning” that his own emergency exercise of a Bakken oil train derailment and explosion estimated 60 casualties in Bismarck or Fargo, both medium-sized cities in North Dakota. One can only guess the number of deaths, if a Bakken train were to jump the rails in Minneapolis or Chicago.

        Furthermore, taxpayers are footing the bill for billions to outfit, equip and train firefighters and emergency personnel to deal with a Bakken oil derailment and explosion. Quebec is on the hook for the $2.7 billion disaster in Lac-Megantic, a village of 6,000. That explosion required responses from “more than 1,000 firefighters from 80 different municipalities in Quebec and from six counties in the state of Maine,” according to a report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

        How much will it cost your community if tragedy strikes? Will North Dakota pay?

        But, there is a bright side. When the next, or the next, or the next Bakken oil train disaster kills more people and decimates a section of Albany or Sacramento or Missoula or Perham, North Dakota can quit worrying about how to spend all of the money piling up in the Bank of North Dakota from oil production revenues. It will be gone to the survivors and a long list of stakeholders.

        The loss will be due to willful negligence, disinterest or incompetence on the part of three men.

        Ron Schalow lives in Fargo, North Dakota, and is part of the Coalition for Bakken Crude Oil Stabilization.

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