Feds order railroads to warn towns when Bakken oil is near

Railroads carrying large amounts of crude from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields must start notifying local officials in Minnesota and other states with details on those shipments and when they're coming through town.

In an "emergency order" issued Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said the railroads must disclose how much of the highly flammable Bakken crude is on board, the frequency of expected train traffic and the route the oil will travel.

The order also requires railroads to provide state emergency officials at least one railroad contact and advises haulers to share information with emergency responders in the affected communities.

The order comes amid ongoing worries about the safety of Bakken crude traveling through small towns that may be unprepared to deal with a potential derailment and fire involving the oil cars.

Casselton, North Dakota, a community of 2,400 just west of Fargo-Moorhead narrowly avoided disaster last December after a Burlington Northern Sante Fe freight train loaded with grain derailed and collided with an approaching oil train just outside of town. The accident spilled 400,000 gallons of volatile Bakken crude oil and triggered a massive explosion and fire.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx came to Casselton and acknowledged that federal authorities needed to do more to boost rail safety tied to Bakken oil.

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