The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 6, 2014

California moves to prevent spills of oil shipped by trains

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Although most people think of oil spills in California as potential beachfront disasters, there is new anxiety in Sacramento about the surge of crude oil now coming through the state each day by train.

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers want to avoid the sort of fiery disaster that killed 47 people in July in southern Quebec when tank cars exploded as they carried oil from the booming Bakken oil fields of North Dakota through Canada. Other less spectacular oil tanker car derailments occurred in Aliceville, Ala.; Casselton, N.D.; and Lynchburg, Va., during the past 12 months.

With a steady increase of oil now being shipped into California from out of state, policymakers are scrambling to come up with spill-prevention programs to lower the risk of potentially deadly accidents. Proposals under consideration include hiring new state railroad inspectors, developing better spill-response plans and improving communications between rail carriers and emergency services agencies.

“California is seeing a huge shift in the way we import oil,” said state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, one of two lawmakers pushing oil-by-rail safety bills this session in the Legislature. “We need to address the new and unique hazards of crude-by-rail transportation.”

The threat to California communities is particularly dire, environmental justice groups contend, because many of the state’s busiest rail lines run through densely populated areas, and refineries often are in low-income neighborhoods, such as Wilmington in southern Los Angeles County and Richmond in Northern California’s Contra Costa County.

Railroads question the need for new state regulations that could conflict with the federal government’s historic oversight of all aspects of rail safety, operations and working conditions. Rail companies say they have “a 99.997 percent safe delivery record of hazardous materials” and they are eager to cooperate with state officials to ensure even safer operations.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Congress reaches agreement on VA reform With days left before the August break, congressional leaders unveiled a $17 billion bipartisan compromise Monday to fix the tattered Department of Veterans Affairs.

    July 28, 2014

  • Residency case targets state GOP legislator A residency dispute involving a Minnesota legislator has landed in court and could put a Republican-held seat in contention at a time when the party is fighting to wrest chamber control from Democrats.

    July 28, 2014

  • 8,000 get false notice of health care cancellation ST. PAUL — More than 8,000 low-income Minnesotans received erroneous notices that their health coverage would be temporarily canceled if they don't pay up. A July 17 notice warned MinnesotaCare subscribers that they faced a four-month coverage locko

    July 28, 2014

  • ND deputy hurt in scuffle Suspect charged with assaulting, trying to disarm law officer

    July 28, 2014

  • Fergus Falls plans deer hunt Hunters are selected by a lottery, pay $20 fee

    July 28, 2014

  • Man killed in home invasion Homeowner's son in Ray, Minn., fires fatal shot

    July 28, 2014

  • Charges filed in July 8 fatal Dodge Center woman criminally charged in fatal car crash

    July 28, 2014

  • American doctor in Africa gets treatment for Ebola BOONE, N.C. (AP) — An American doctor infected with the deadly Ebola disease received intensive treatment Sunday in West Africa and was in stable condition, talking to his medical team and working on his computer, a spokeswoman for an aid group said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Salmonella Outbreak Trial [Duplicate] Trial in salmonella outbreak to start in Georgia ATLANTA (AP) — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georg

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitfalls emerge in health insurance renewals WASHINGTON — For the 8 million people who persevered through all the technical travails in the new health insurance exchanges and managed to sign up for coverage in 2014, their policies will probably automatically renew come November when open enroll

    July 27, 2014