New Minnesota safety rules – prevention and response, but nothing about stopping crude by rail

Repost from The Perham Focus, Perham, MN

New rail safety rules now in effect in Minnesota

Focus staff report, 7/1/14

Laws designed to improve the safety of Minnesotans who live and work near railways that carry crude oil and other hazardous materials go into effect July 1.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety and the railroads will carry out the new rail safety legislation, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton in May. The new laws follow accidents involving crude oil in neighboring states and provinces and will implement stricter oversight of railroad companies, require more railway inspections and provide for better emergency response training and preparedness in communities across Minnesota.

“Trains carrying crude oil pass through our communities every day. We have learned from dangerous accidents in other states that without proper safety measures, that cargo could pose a very real risk to our citizens,” said Gov. Dayton in a press release from the state transportation department. “For the enhanced safety of all Minnesotans, I am confident that our departments of transportation and public safety will implement these new programs effectively, and strictly enforce all new regulations taking effect today in Minnesota.”

“These new safety measures go a long way towards making the state safer as the trains carrying crude oil pass through the state,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “The addition of more rail inspectors will allow us to inspect more tracks and equipment and keep them operating safely.”

“We welcome the opportunity to educate first responders on the unique challenges presented by the volume of crude oil making its way through Minnesota,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “We will also bring together community leaders, railroad and pipeline operators, and emergency planners to ensure all communities are prepared to respond to an incident involving crude oil.”


Minnesota is seeing an increase of trains carrying petroleum products from the North Dakota oil fields. In response, the legislation includes several key features designed to strengthen safety requirements and improve disaster response readiness in the state, according to the release:

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.