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Tanker cars are shown Tuesday afternoon in the BNSF Railway yard in Willmar, Minn., as seen from the pedestrian bridge at Sixth Street Southeast. Rand Middleton/Forum News Service

New Minn. rail regulations a safety net for increased oil by rail shipment

ST. PAUL -- New Minnesota laws took effect Tuesday to improve the safety of citizens and rail workers who live and work near railroad tracks that carry crude oil through Minnesota.

"Trains carrying crude oil pass through our communities every day," said Gov. Mark Dayton in a news release on Tuesday. "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."

On average, nine trains pulling crude oil pass through Minnesota cities every day. The number of trains is estimated to double within the next year, said Sue Roe, public affairs program administrator at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, in an interview with the Tribune. As the number of oil cars rises, the risk for a disastrous accident also increases, which is one of the driving forces behind the push for the new regulations.

The news release outlined some of the key features of the new legislation enacted to ensure the safe transportation of oil:

• Railroad companies are required to submit disaster prevention plans to the state of Minnesota. This new law requires companies transporting hazardous materials to develop safety measures that help keep Minnesotans and the environment safe.

• The Minnesota Department of Transportation will increase the number of working railway inspectors to help keep tracks and machinery in top condition.

• Railroads are required 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. The law also requires the Department of Public Safety to continue to provide training and response preparedness to emergency responders.

• Railroads are required to file emergency response plans with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and to update these plans.

• Railroads are required to deploy enough equipment to clean up within a specified time period any spills or leaks that may occur meaning that the company that caused the spill is held responsible for the spill.