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Tone-deaf BNSF gets leafy spurge; roses to MN legislature

LEAFY SPURGE: To BNSF Railway for responding to every report about safety on the rails with the same recitation of its safety record, which for the most part is good. No one disputes statistics that say the railroad delivers more than 99 percent of its freight to destination without incident. But that no longer is the issue. After a fatal oil train explosion in Quebec (not a BNSF train) and derailment and explosion of an oil train near Casselton, N.D. (a BNSF train), perceptions of rail safety have changed. The startling increase of trains moving volatile North Dakota Bakken crude oil through the state’s cities and towns is the game-changer. When a load of grain or lumber skips the tracks, the danger to trackside neighbors is minimal, if at all. When tank cars that are filled with highly flammable hazardous material derail (Bakken crude, for example), the danger obviously is of a much higher magnitude. That’s the concern, and quoting statistics will not minimize that concern.

PRAIRIE ROSES: To Minnesota legislative leaders who are visiting media outlets around the state prior to Tuesday’s start of the session in St. Paul. The visits to newspaper editorial boards and talk-radio shows are in part self-serving. The lawmakers want support for their priorities. But the interviews also can be informative for constituents and useful for journalists and others who will be covering the Legislature for the next few months. The more leading lawmakers get out and visit directly with voters and media, the more their work (and it is work) can be understood and maybe even appreciated. — The Forum