May 6, 2015

Developing: Oil Train Derails Near Heimdal, ND — Town Evacuated

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May 6th, 2015 | Prairie Public | Dave Thompson

Residents of a tiny North Dakota town were evacuated after an oil train derailed Wednesday morning and at least five tanker cars went up in flames, Prairie Public Radio reported. Heimdal, population 27, sits about 50 miles east of Minot. So far there have been no injuries reported as a result of the crash.

The derailment comes just days after the Department of Transportation released new rules designed to make shipping oil by rail safer. It’s the fifth major oil train derailment of 2015.

According to the local sheriff’s office, the BNSF-owned train had 109 tank cars carrying crude oil, and 6 or 7 of them derailed.

CNBC posted a press release from the Berkshire Hathaway-owned company, which is responsible for most of the crude oil on the rails today:

“At approximately 7:30 am CDT today, a train operating approximately 50 miles east of Minot, ND derailed carrying crude oil. Initial reports from the crew indicate there are no injuries but a fire has been reported at the scene. The tank cars involved in the incident are the unjacketed CPC-1232 models. BNSF will work with the nearest first responders.”

The unjacketed CPC-1232s are scheduled to be phased out over the next five years under the new oil train rules.

About an hour after the incident, Sarah Feinberg, acting head of the Federal Railway Administration tweeted:

Crude-by-rail accidents are on the rise, as an Inside Energy data analysis showed, although they haven’t increased proportionally with the amount of oil being shipped. That is small comfort to people living near the tracks, as Emily Guerin reported on the one year anniversary of the derailment near Casselton, North Dakota.

You can view other recent incidents on this map from Reuters, including:

  • February, 2015: A train hauling crude oil derailed and exploded in West Virginia, forcing residents to evacuate and spilling crude into the local water supply
  • May 2014: Crude oil train derailment in Lynchburg, VA resulted in 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled into and around the James River.
  • July 2013: 47 people died in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec after a train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded.
  • December 2013: an oil train derailed near Casselton, North Dakota and its 2500 residents were evacuated.

Check in with Prairie Public Radio for updates on the Heimdal derailment.