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Record Editorial: Feds should move quickly on rail safety plan

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opinion Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Record Editorial: Feds should move quickly on rail safety plan
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Cheers to a federal plan to toughen rules on hazardous chemicals shipped by rail.

It's an issue that should be near and dear to the hearts of residents of Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Lake Park, Audubon and all other cities along the east-west BNSF rail corridor.


Not to mention the residents of Callaway, Ogema, Waubun and again, Detroit Lakes, and others located along the north-south Canadian Pacific tracks.

The heavily traveled two-track BNSF corridor is not immune from derailments, as was demonstrated last year when a freight train derailed near Lake Park.

No one was hurt in that incident, but that's not the case with a derailment six years ago in Minot.

On Jan. 18, 2002, a Canadian Pacific freight derailed in Minot and five tank cars ruptured, releasing 147,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia, which is used in fertilizer. The deadly cloud drifted over Minot. One person died, and 11 were seriously injured.

According to the Baltimore Sun, 12 people died when chlorine gas escaped from tank cars after similar accidents in Macdona, Texas, in 2004 and Graniteville, S.C., in 2005. The Graniteville wreck released 60 tons of poisonous liquefied chlorine.

Federal transportation officials on Monday unveiled proposed new regulations for hauling hazardous chemicals by rail that would impose more stringent standards for tanker cars that haul the most hazardous inhaled chemicals, and require slower train speeds, according to a recent Forum story by Patrick Springer.

"This proposal is designed to significantly reduce the hazard of hauling hazardous materials by rail," said Mary E. Peters, U.S. transportation secretary.

The new rule would apply to what are called poison inhalation hazards, including ammonia and anhydrous ammonia.

The government is proposing a requirement that tanker cars for poison inhalation hazards must meet a performance standard that is 500 percent stronger than current regulations to prevent ruptures.

Federal transportation officials called the proposal the most sweeping overhaul of rail transportation regulations in decades.

We say it's long overdue, and encourage the Federal Railroad Administration to implement the changes as quickly as possible.