TribLIVE

| Business

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Mayor: North Dakota town dodged a bullet in crude explosion

AP
Crude oil tanker cars continue to burn at the site of an oil train derailment Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013, in Casselton, N.D. The train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Monday. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 6:54 p.m.
 

CASSELTON, N.D. — A southeastern North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the nation.

No one was hurt in the derailment on Monday of the mile-long train that sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The fire had been so intense as darkness fell that investigators couldn't get close enough to count the number of burning cars. The National Transportation Safety Board started an investigation.

Most residents heeded a recommendation to evacuate their homes as strong winds blew potentially hazardous, acrid smoke toward the town overnight, Mayor Ed McConnell said. Black soot coated parts of Casselton.

“I drove in this morning and looked like most people had left. There weren't a lot of lights on,” McConnell said.

The North Dakota Department of Health warned that exposure to burning crude could cause shortness of breath, coughing and itching and watery eyes. It had said those in the vicinity with respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema should minimize outdoor activity.

As the wrecked tankers continued to smolder on Tuesday, Cass County Sheriff's Sgt. Tara Morris said a contractor hired by the railroad was testing air quality. Readings indicated improvements but authorities aren't yet prepared to “give the all-clear,” Morris said.

McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailment had happened within the town. He said it is time to “have a conversation” with federal lawmakers about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.

“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” he said. “It's almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we're going to have an accident, it's when. We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort.”

A train carrying crude from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch crashed in Quebec last summer, bursting into flames and killing 47 people.

Shipping oil by pipeline has to be a safer option, McConnell said.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Post-Gazette offers voluntary buyouts in bid to avoid layoffs
  2. Stocks bounce back from big losses to close relatively flat
  3. GNC to convert more stores to franchises as sales, profits slip
  4. Muni bond funds stressed
  5. Kennametal expects to consolidate plants as it shrinks manufacturing in continuing streamlining; profit drops
  6. EPA ordered to ease limits on cross-border air pollution that involves Pennsylvania
  7. Ambridge’s PittMoss takes off with help from TV show, Mt. Lebanon native Cuban
  8. Range Resources cuts workforce 11%
  9. Urban rentals pit old vs. young
  10. United Airlines hack coincided with incursion into government employee data
  11. Voice-assisted technology raises privacy concerns