PSC Julie Fedorchak: Casselton Derailment Demonstrates Need For State Rail Inspectors

This morning while guest hosting for Mike Kapel on WDAY AM970 I spoke with Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak about the Casselton derailment last night, the second train derailment in that area in less than a year (thankfully this one didn’t include a mushroom cloud).

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, a train carrying logs derailed and then was struck by a second train pulling empty oil cars. Dozens of cars derailed, but apparently there were no hazardous leaks and (thankfully) no deaths or injuries.

Understandably, people are nervous about why this keeps happening.

We don’t have any answers yet about last night’s derailment, but Fedorchak pointed out that she has proposed legislation (which she says Governor Jack Dalrymple is including in his budget proposal to the Legislature) that would fund some state rail inspectors.

North Dakota’s Public Service Commission started off in 1885 as the Board of Railroad Commissioners. The name changed because a) the commission started handling a lot more than just railroads and b) because the federal government took over regulation of the railroads a long time ago.

Basically what the legislation would do is add a state rail inspector, mechanical inspector and a rail safety manager to the two existing Federal Railroad Administration inspectors current overseeing the state’s more than 3,000 miles of active rail. The state personnel would be trained by the FRA and would have the same authority as the FRA.

The state is also having a debate about the safety of Bakken oil, which has contributed to a big spike in rail traffic in recent years, but that’s really a separate issue from train derailments. Regardless of what’s being hauled on the train, they need to stop coming off the tracks.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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