North Dakota oil train derailment involves tank cars slated for phase-out

The fiery derailment of an oil train forced the evacuation of a central North Dakota town Wednesday morning. At least 6 tank cars caught fire when the BNSF train hauling Bakken crude oil derailed at about 7:30 a.m., 2 miles outside of Heimdal, N.D

BNSF confirmed the train cars involved in the derailment were unjacketed CPC-1232 models – the same model the federal government would like phased out by 2020.

Wells County Emergency Manager Tammy Roehrich confirmed 35 people were evacuated, but no injuries were reported. Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg said investigators were en route to the scene.

BNSF statement

"At approximately 7:30 am CDT today, a train derailed at Heimdal, ND carrying crude oil. The train consisted of 109 total cars – 107 cars loaded with crude oil and two buffer cars loaded with sand. There are no injuries but there is a fire at the scene. The tank cars involved in the incident are the unjacketed CPC-1232 models. Local first responders are on the scene as is BNSF personnel. Additional BNSF personnel are en route. BNSF team members will continue to assist first responders."

Federal Railroad Administration statement

"A crude oil train has derailed near Heimdal, North Dakota this morning, resulting in a large fire involving several tank cars. The town of Heimdal is being evacuated. The FRA has deployed a ten person investigation team to the site and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident. Today's incident is yet another reminder of why we issued a significant, comprehensive rule aimed at improving the safe transport of high hazard flammable liquids. The FRA will continue to look at all options available to us to improve safety and mitigate risks."

Concerns in Minnesota

A new MnDOT analysis released in March shows 326,170 Minnesotans live within the half-mile evacuation zones along state oil train routes.

"It's a reminder that we have that exposure all across large parts of Minnesota," Gov. Mark Dayton said. "We need to do whatever we possibly can -- the rail crossings and the projects that are in the bonding bill that would provide for some overpass -- so train don't have to go into downtown Willmar where something like that would be catastrophic."

Gov. Dayton has proposed a 10-year, $330 million plan to build safer railroad crossings, including an enhanced crossing in the middle of a densely-populated neighborhood along Como Avenue in St. Paul. The cost of the upgrades would be covered by an annual $33 million assessment and new property tax charged to the railroads. The Minnesota Railroads Association says the tax "ignores the improvements that railroads make year-after-year and the more than $500 million in safety and service improvement that railroads will be making in Minnesota this year alone."

FOX 9 INVESTIGATORS: Explosive oil trains