Monday, May 2, 2016

 Protect Community Safety:
No single person train crews
Aliceville Alabama 11/14/13
​Community Activist​

We have until May 16th to tell the Federal Railroad Administration under no circumstances is it safe to run trains through our communities with fewer than two crew members.
On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced a Proposed Rule on the whole question of crew staffing for trains in the United States. After careful consideration, Railroad Workers United has come to the only conclusion possible: The Proposed Rule provided a road map for any and all rail carriers to obtain the FRA's blessing to run trains with a single employee, even on hazardous materials oil trains. Therefore, RWU cannot support this Proposed Rule, period. This letter to the FRA is Railroad Workers United response to the proposed notice of rule making. 
We continue to agree with the joint statement from nearly 7 years ago that the BLET and UTU unions made in a joint Petition filed in June 2009 with the FRA on the question which reads: "No conditions exist where one-person operations are safe."  And since the Proposed Rule is predicated on the "safe" operation of trains with a single crew member, we urge the FRA to promulgate a rule that outlaws the practice.

We urge all RWU members, railroad workers, and community allies to contact the FRA and tell them in plain language: "No single employee train crews!" 

Ross Grooters
Steering Committee Co-Chair
Railroad Workers United

Friday, April 29, 2016

One oil field a key culprit in global ethane gas increase

From the Michigan News...

One oil field a key culprit in global ethane gas increase

  • Contact Nicole Casal Moore, 734-647-7087, or Katy Human, 303-735-0196,
A snapshot from a simulation of how Bakken oil field hydrocarbon emissions including ethane affect North American ground-level ozone concentrations. Hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sunlight to produce ozone. Ground-level ozone leads to poor air quality. This snapshot represents one hour during the summer of 2014 in an air quality model. The reddish hues directly over and downwind of the Bakken show that emissions there accounted for increases of up to 4 ozone molecules per billion air molecules, about 6 percent of the present EPA standard. The colors don't indicate that any particular location necessarily experienced an unhealthy air day, but they do show where Bakken emissions had the greatest impacts. Credit: Lee Murray, NASA GISS/Columbia UniversityA snapshot from a simulation of how Bakken oil field hydrocarbon emissions including ethane affect North American ground-level ozone concentrations. Hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sunlight to produce ozone. Ground-level ozone leads to poor air quality. This snapshot represents one hour during the summer of 2014 in an air quality model. The reddish hues directly over and downwind of the Bakken show that emissions there accounted for increases of up to 4 ozone molecules per billion air molecules, about 6 percent of the present EPA standard. The colors don't indicate that any particular location necessarily experienced an unhealthy air day, but they do show where Bakken emissions had the greatest impacts. Credit: Lee Murray, NASA GISS/Columbia University

ANN ARBOR—A single U.S. shale oil field is responsible for much of the past decade's increase in global atmospheric levels of ethane, a gas that can damage air quality and impact climate, according to new study led by the University of Michigan.
The researchers found that the Bakken Formation, an oil and gas field in North Dakota and Montana, is emitting roughly 2 percent of the globe's ethane. That's about 250,000 tons per year.
"Two percent might not sound like a lot, but the emissions we observed in this single region are 10 to 100 times larger than reported in inventories. They directly impact air quality across North America. And they're sufficient to explain much of the global shift in ethane concentrations," said Eric Kort, U-M assistant professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, and first author of the study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Researchers flew over the Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana to gather data about emissions of ethane, a hydrocarbon gas that can damage air quality and impact climate. This is the view from their NOAA Twin Otter aircraft. Credit: Eric KortResearchers flew over the Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana to gather data about emissions of ethane, a hydrocarbon gas that can damage air quality and impact climate. This is the view from their NOAA Twin Otter aircraft. Credit: Eric KortThe Bakken is part of a 200,000-square-mile basin that underlies parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in addition to the two U.S. states. It saw a steep increase in oil and gas activity over the past decade, powered by advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling.
Between 2005 and 2014, the Bakken's oil production jumped by a factor of 3,500, and its gas production by 180. In the past two years, however, production has plateaued.
Ethane is the second most abundant atmospheric hydrocarbon, a family of compounds made of hydrogen and carbon. Ethane reacts with sunlight and other molecules in the atmosphere to form ozone, which at the surface can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation and other ailments and damage crops.
Surface-level ozone is one of the main pollutants that the national Air Quality Index measures in its effort to let the public know when breathing outside for long periods of time could be harmful. Low-altitude ozone also plays a role in climate change, as it is a greenhouse gas and the third-largest contributor to human-caused global warming after carbon dioxide and methane.Globally, the atmosphere's ethane levels were on the downswing from 1984 to 2009. The gas gets into the air primarily through leaks in fossil fuel extraction, processing and distribution. Scientists attributed its declining levels to less venting and flaring of gas from oil fields and less leakage from production and distribution systems.
But in 2010, a mountaintop sensor in Europe registered an ethane uptick. Researchers looked into it. They hypothesized that the boom in U.S. oil and gas brought about by hydraulic fracturing could be the culprit—even a continent away. Ethane concentrations have been increasing ever since.
To gather their data, the researchers flew over the Bakken Formation in a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft, sampling air for 12 days in May 2014. Their airborne measurements from directly over and downwind of oil production areas show that the field's ethane emissions of 0.23 teragrams per year, or roughly 250,000 U.S. tons, effectively cancel out half of the global decline rate.
"These findings not only solve an atmospheric mystery—where that extra ethane was coming from—they also help us understand how regional activities sometimes have global impacts," said co-author Colm Sweeney, a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, and NOAA. "We did not expect a single oil field to affect global levels of this gas."
Ethane emissions from other U.S. fields, especially the Eagle Ford in Texas, likely contributed as well, the research team says. The findings illustrate the key role of shale oil and gas production in rising ethane levels.
The study is titled "Fugitive emissions from the Bakken shale illustrate role of shale production in global ethane shift." Also contributing were researchers from NOAA, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, Stanford University and Harvard University. The research was funded primarily by NOAA and NASA.

More information:

Monday, February 29, 2016

The New Oil-Storage Space: Railcars

The New Oil-Storage Space: Railcars

By Nicole Friedman and Bob Tita
Updated Feb. 28, 2016 9:09 p.m. ET
The U.S. is so awash in crude oil that traders are experimenting with new places to store it: empty railcars.
Thousands of railcars ordered up to transport oil are now sitting idle because current ultralow crude prices have made shipping by train unprofitable. Meanwhile, traditional storage tanks are running out of room as U.S. oil inventories swell to their highest level since the 1930s. 
Some industry participants are calling the new practice “rolling storage”—a landlocked spin on the “floating storage” producers use to hold crude on giant oil tankers when inventories run high.
The combination of cheap oil and surplus railcars has created a budding new side business for traders. J.P. Fjeld-Hansen, a managing director for trading company Musket Corp., tested using railcars for storage last year and found he could profit by putting the oil aside while locking in a higher price to deliver it in a later month.
The company built a rail terminal in Windsor, Colo., in 2012 to load oil shipments during a boom in U.S. oil production. Now, Mr. Fjeld-Hansen says, “The focus has shifted from a loading terminal to an oil-storage and railcar-storage business.”
Energy Midstream, a trading company based in The Woodlands, Texas, stored an ultralight oil known as condensate on Ohio railcars last month for about 15 days before shipping it to a buyer in Canada.
Dennis Hoskins, a managing partner at Energy Midstream, says there are so many unused tank cars that he is constantly hearing from railcar owners hoping to put them to use. “We get offers everyday for railcars,” he said.
The use of railcars for storage could be limited by the cost of track space and safety and liability concerns that have followed a string of high-profile transport accidents. Issues range from leaky cars to the risk of collisions and fires.
Federal regulations require railroads that store cars loaded with hazardous materials like oil to comply with strict storage and security measures to keep the cars away from daily rail traffic. Railroads and users face responsibility for leaks, collisions or other mishaps.
“I don’t want the liability,” said Judy Petry, president of Oklahoma rail operator Farmrail System Inc. “We prefer not to hold a loaded car.”
Still, the oil has to go somewhere. The surge in shale-oil production has created a massive glut that the industry is struggling to absorb. BP PLC Chief Executive Bob Dudley joked in a speech this month that by midyear, “every storage tank and swimming pool in the world will be filled with oil.”
Khory Ramage, president of Ironhorse Permian Basin LLC, which operates a rail terminal in Artesia, N.M., said he hears regularly from traders looking to store crude in his railcars.
Crude-storage costs “have been accelerating, just due to the demand for it and less room,” he said. “You’ll probably start seeing this kick up more and more.”
U.S. crude inventories rose above 500 million barrels in late January for the first time since 1930, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The cheapest form of storage—underground salt caverns—can cost 25 cents a barrel each month, while storing crude on railcars costs about 50 cents a barrel and floating storage can cost 75 cents or more. The cost estimates don’t include loading and transportation.
Railcars hold between 500 and 700 barrels of oil, less than a cavern, tank or ship can store.
The use of U.S. railcars to transport large volumes of oil picked up steam a few years ago as a byproduct of the fracking boom. Fields sprung up faster than pipelines could be laid, so producers improvised and shipped their output to market by rail. Companies soon realized railroads offered greater flexibility to transfer oil to whomever offered the best price. Some pipeline companies even joined the rail business, building terminals to load and unload oil. U.S. oil settled Friday at $32.78 a barrel, down nearly 70% from mid-2014. 
The plunge in oil prices brought that activity to a halt. Analysts estimate there are now as many as 20,000 tank cars—about one-third of the North American fleet for hauling oil—parked out of the way in storage yards or along unused stretches of tracks in rural areas.
Producers and shippers who signed long-term leases for the cars during the boom are stuck paying monthly rates that typically run $1,500 to $1,700 per car. Traders can pay those prices and still profit. Oil bought at the April price and sold through the futures market for delivery a year later could net a trader $8.07 a barrel, not including storage or transportation costs.
As central storage hubs fill up, oil companies are more willing to pay for expensive and remote types of storage, said Ernie Barsamian, principal of the Tank Tiger, which keeps a database of companies looking to buy and sell oil storage space.
The Tank Tiger posted an inquiry Wednesday on behalf of a client seeking 75,000 barrels of crude-oil storage or space to park 100 to 120 railcars loaded with crude.
Mr. Barsamian likened the disappearance of available storage to a coloring book where nearly all the white space has been filled in.
“You’re getting closer to the edges,” he said.
Write to Nicole Friedman at and Bob Tita at

Friday, July 17, 2015

Trains plus crude oil equals trouble down the track

Trains plus crude oil equals trouble down the track

Every day, strings of black tank cars filled with crude oil roll slowly across a long wooden railroad bridge over the Black Warrior River. But with some timber pilings so badly rotted that you can stick your hand right through them, and a “MacGyver”-esque combination of plywood, concrete and plastic pipe employed to patch up others, the bridge demonstrates the limited ability of government and industry to manage the hidden risks of a sudden shift in energy production.

Safe by Whose Standards?

Safe by Whose Standards?

After 2.5 million dollar "repair" job bridge still needs work.

John L. Wathen
(Follow links to more background info. use back button to return here)
((All photos enlarge when clicked))
Flight provided by SouthWings
WATCO Railroad maintains that the bridge over Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, Al. is safe. By whose standards? Since there are no federal standards for the construction and maintaining such structures who oversees them to make sure they are safe? The owners.

If a developer in town builds a house it goes through rigorous inspections at every step of the process. Doesn't it make sense that an industry that hauls such dangerous cargo's as crude oil and chemicals would be held to a similar national standard for bridges? That's not the case.

After the Alliceville train wreck where a unit train of Bakken crude blew up and left over 20 cars into the swamp there I started really paying attention to the oil-by-rail issue and was disturbed by some of my findings.

During the time the Aliceville tracks were being rebuilt unit trains (bomb trains) were being routed through Tuscaloosa via the oldest bridge over the Black Warrior River in the area. Although WATCO, the owners of the bridge maintain that no Bakken has crossed the bridge. Genesee & Wyoming RR stated that until the cause of the Aliceville wreck was known no oil was being shipped across that line. It was being diverted across a northern route to avoid the Aliceville site. The only feasible route I could find available on that line found on Google maps takes the trains straight through downtown Northport and Tuscaloosa Alabama.

According to WATCO, the bridge is owned by Alabama Southern Railroad. When you look them up the listing says "A Watco Co." So I will refer to WATCO as the responsible party until Someone shows me different. Here is a video report posted during the use of what was described as an alternate route to the north. "Alternate Crude Routes"

While traveling with a reporter from the Aliceville wreck site we saw a unit train of about 100 cars heading into Tuscaloosa along a route that I later found to be in bad condition, or so it seems to me from the decay I saw. Rotted Cross ties, twisted rails, missing spacer plates, spikes not driven in or completely missing. The train was made up just like the Bakken trains with 3 or 4 engines followed by a few box type cars and then as many as 80 to over 100 DOT-111 tank cars followed by 2 more box cars to act as collision buffers.
03/24/15 Aerial photos courtesy of flights by SouthWings
The train in the aerial wasn't one we call bomb trains. It has only about half of the cars normally associated with Bakken trains. I have documented such trains passing over the bridge during the period when the Aliceville line was closed.

We followed it right into town and across an antique bridge built in 1897 to accommodate steam engine trains. In it's day it was state of the art engineering. Today, however it has fallen into disrepair and having to support a lot heaver car with much more dangerous cargoes.
The aerial photo above is of a train hauling only 45 or so cars. It snakes completely around the downtown Northport and passes within mere feet of the parking lots for Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
For an interactive map visit this link

Following Google Earth you can see where the lines separate in Miss. with one leading to Aliceville and the other to Tuscaloosa. The map seen on the right shows the known explosive oil routes coming out of Miss. There are only 2 coming through this area.

Shortly after the video above was released there was another train wreck in Buhl Alabama on the same line we documented the bomb train only a few weeks prior. This time it was not Bakken and the train seemed to have just rolled off the tracks. It is a class 1 track with a speed limit of less than 10 MPH. After looking at the rotten cross ties I started looking up the line at the infrastructure. What I found was alarming. I am not an engineer nor do I hold any scientific degrees but I consider myself to be less than stupid and have enough common sense to see things that to me are dangerous.

After the Buhl wreck I was contacted by a film crew from the Netherlands wanting to do a story about bomb trains and the Tuscaloosa bridge. I was surprized that a documentary company from overseas saw this as important enough to report.

Shortly after that I was contacted by the Weather Channel wanting to do a piece covering the bridge. It was released on Dec.08, 2014. "Boom" (North America's Oil-By-Rail Problem) I met with the reporter Marcus Stern for a walk about around the bridge. We documented many broken cross members, rusted metal, heavy wooden braces hanging like widow makers from the bridge in a public use area.

McClatchy news agency contacted me about it soon after the Wx Channel left. Curtis Tate came down and had done his homework. He already knew a lot about the issue and routes taken by the trains. His story was released 12/31/14 and was hard hitting. He touched on many of the issues covered by Wx Channel but added a lot of info to the story. "Trains plus crude oil equals trouble down the track".

Until these stories were posted no one locally thought it was news worthy. It was after all the national media attention that a story was posted in the Tuscaloosa News proclaiming the rail road was spending 2.5 million dollars on repairs.  There was a flurry of activity for a while then it stopped. 

Recently I returned to the site with a reporter doing a story for Hemispheres Magazine. I was disappointed to see the still questionable condition of the bridge. Some of the rotten poles had been replaced and some cosmetic repairs, for lack of a better term had been done. The T'News story ran on Jan.11, 2015. When I returned 5 months later I found much to be concerned about still. There were some broken pieces of creosote railing on the ground right under hanging cross arms left hanging during the 2.5 million dollar so-called repairs. 

Several of the poles had been replaced but many more still stand with rotted centers and makeshift  splices. There were two piles of new poles sitting by the bridge but not used. Why? Why not do the whole job instead of using half efforts. It amounts to more like window dressing to me.

In the video accompanying the "Boom" story at 6 min 27 seconds in you will see a broken cross brace installed to stabilize the piers. On May 27th, 10, 2015 which was 4 months after the 2.5 million dollar repairs but it still hangs exactly as it was in Jan. 2015. 
Screen shot of Boom story @ 6 min 27 seconds into video

Photo by John L. Wathen 5/27/15 4 months after repairs began.
Same cross arm hanging 07/15/15, 7 months after repairs began.

I was told by a WATCO representative that they are through with repairs for this year and may plan more for next year. From what I saw it never should have stopped this far short of complete repair. If this is 2.5 million dollars in repairs then it may take about 10 times that to bring it back to a safe condition.  On Jan. 11, 2015 Tracie VanBecelaere, communications director for WATCO, said the bridge work should be finished by next month with the rest of the railroad repairs finished by April 2015. I can see where it still needs much more work before it is safe.

There are loads of fresh creosote poles laying in piles close to the bridge that were never used. Why? I found several bags of concrete long ago hardened by weather in piles not used. Why?If the crews were on hand and the materials were there then why stop short of completing the job?
7/15/15 WATCO says they are through for this year


It makes no sense to me why a company who claims to be so interested in safety would let a bridge decay like this one has in such a sensitive area. They made this comment in the T'News article 7 months ago.
 "Ed McKechnie, Watco's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said through VanBecelaere that Watco was aware of Wathen's concerns with the train trestle."
"John has a passion for the environment just as we have a passion for the safety of the communities we serve and our team members," she said. "We are constantly reinvesting in our railroads and are committed to operating them safely." This goes way beyond any environmental concerns. This is a concern for human safety!

What I have seen in the past few days leads me to be even more concerned than ever. Not only did they not complete the repairs that were started, there is now more to do than ever.

Examination of the rock pillar in the river on the Tuscaloosa side of the span I found that it was placed on a wooden form, filled with stone from the river and poured with what passed for cement in the 1890's. There were no electric vibrators like we use today to make the concrete settle into the form so many voids can be seen. 

The wooden cribbing has long ago rotted away allowing the stone to pour out into the river. 

Leaving there I walked through the public use areas and found many of the cross arms still broken and hanging like widow makers over people's heads who use the area.Tuscaloosa built the Amphitheater with parking on both sides of the tracks but no safe walking path through the structure. People have to walk under the bridge with no warning of the hazards hanging overhead.

The people and walkway seen in the upper photo are in a public use area behind the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater which is less than 70 feet from the bridge. They were taking photos with a toddler. None of them were aware of the danger of hanging debris until I pointed it out. The young lady seen below was actually sitting on a blanket directly under a hanging cross arm waiting for a train to take pictures. When I showed her the broken member hanging over her she promptly moved.
Seen directly behind her is what I call a makeshift repair that should never have been installed as a permanent fix. It amounts to cutting out a portion of rotten support pole and slipping in a section of new or less used poles. A steel or plastic pipe is slipped over the two and bags of sacked concrete poured in the void. In my opinion this is what amounts to what my dad called jury rigging.

If it were just one here and there it might not pose an issue. The reality of it is that there are more than 200 of these spread throughout the structure. From the Tuscaloosa side where the bridge begins to the river span there are 86, give or take a couple. It's only about an 800 foot span. About 1/4 of those are grouped in one place directly adjacent to the back of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

In this one photo I counted 19 such repairs, 2 broken cross arm braces and lots of rot. I can't believe that after spending 2 million dollars to repair the bridge this is accepted.

On the Northport side I counted 158 such repairs, give or take a couple, starting at second street and going to the river. Some of the heaviest concentrations of such makeshift repairs are within a few feet of residences seen on the left with a couple of tons of discarded waste laying nearby. This is a common practice on this line and others. Simply throwing creosote poles and cross ties in the right of way and drainage ditches is unacceptable.

Steel Cancer! 

On the Northport side along the public walking trail I was shocked to see the amount of rust on the span leading out over the river. It amounted to a steel cancer eating away the very base the bridge needs to hold the weight of today's unit trains and dangerous cargo. Whether there has or has not been shipments of Bakken crude through here it is a fact that unit trains hauling All sorts of crude oil and dangerous chemical cargoes over what should be consider to be a dangerous bridge.

Note the rust stains on the cracked concrete piers.
Rust piled 3 inches deep on concrete fell from steel

The next 3 photos are of the actual steel footers the bridge rests on.
Holes rusted through in critical areas.

From Tuscaloosa News Jan. 11, 2015
"Watco said the train trestle is inspected annually by Watco inspectors, Kansas City Southern inspectors and a third-party bridge inspector, Osmose Railroad Services."
Although the rules call for inspections there doesn't seem to be a mandate to require repairs based on the findings.

This span starts directly over the walking trail at the Northport levee and leads out over the river. All 4 piers are in similar condition. I can't see the Tuscaloosa side as well as this but assume I will find similar conditions. Lots of rust and obvious cracks in concrete piers poured as long as a century ago.

Along the Northport side leading through the public use area there are steel structures I was told that were designed to stabilize sway and bucking when a train is passes over.  Whatever the reason, ALL of them are infected with the steel cancer called rust. No one has painted them in decades it looks like. The steel has been eaten from about 1 inch in places to less that 1/4 of the original thickness. Most of them were badly rusted on all 4 mounting piers.

Some of the gussets installed to brace corners were rusted all the way through. You can see daylight through a steel plate, it's way too rusty to withstand it's original load capacity. Steel in this condition can't be welded, it must be replaced.

The photo to the left is where it was marked showing a plate rusted all the way through. The paint is so old it has faded and the rust is now bleeding through. While I can't say there have been no inspections, this begs the question of why are they not acting expeditiously to correct these problems obviously to me that are years old?

None of the steel spans show any signs of paint or repairs. Sandblasting these now would blow holes through the rotted steel. What looks to be the original primer paint may be all the paint it has ever seen. 

If this was after 2.5 million dollars worth of repairs it will probably take hundreds of millions to completely fix its true problems. I laughingly made a comment not long ago that to fix the problems they need to start with a bulldozer. That might not really be a joke!

The company maintains that it is safe. 

By whose standards? There are no standards. Does that surprise or alarm anyone outside the industry? It should!

Federal Railway Administration has no authority to even set standards for bridge construction and or repair? The state has no authority, cities or counties are voiceless in the issue even though many of our cities and rural communities are plagued with crumbling infrastructure and ever more dangerous cargoes being shipped through our yards. If the company says it's safe no one in government can challenge because there is no universal standard. I find that absurd since the rail industry is the only industry who can not refuse to haul hazardous cargo according to government rules. That must change if we are ever going to be safe from potential disasters like Lac-Mégantic Canada.

Take oil out of the equation. In my opinion this bridge isn't safe enough to haul sand much less toxic and sometimes deadly products. This isn't the only place where rail conditions are less than acceptable. All of America should be concerned about the safety of living and commuting along these potential bomb corridors.

It's hard for me to believe but here during football games and art shows at Kentuck park people are allowed to park RV's under the bridge and tailgate with the entire family. On July 4th this year I video documented the fun and was alarmed to see a train roll through the fireworks smoke while thousands of people on both sides of the river were under or in very close proximity of this dangerous situation.

When people say "It can't happen here" I respond with LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, Aliceville Alabama, Casselton ND., Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Lynchburg Virginia, Mount Carbon WV., and the list goes on and on. Most of the people impacted thought it would never happen to them.

July 4th, 2015 

2 rail cars leaking crude after oil train derails in Montana

From Tuscaloosa News...

2 rail cars leaking crude after oil train derails in Montana

Published: Friday, July 17, 2015 at 4:38 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 17, 2015 at 4:38 a.m.
CULBERTSON, Mont. (AP) — More than 20 cars on an oil train derailed in rural northeastern Montana and at least two of them were leaking crude, authorities said. Some area homes were evacuated.
There were no immediate reports of injury or fire, but of the 21 cars that derailed only two remained upright, Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick said.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Michael Trevino said the train was pulling 106 loaded crude oil cars when it derailed near Culbertson near the North Dakota border just after 6 p.m. MDT Thursday.
Police, fire and other emergency responders were at the site of the derailment, which forced the closure of U.S. Highway 2, the region's main artery.
Frederick told The Associated Press that crews were not getting too close to the leaking cars until a BNSF hazardous materials team arrives from Texas.
But he said that there was no immediate threat to public safety.
The sheriff didn't know how many homes were evacuated but described area as a rural setting with ranch homes spread apart.
The Billing Gazette reported that the derailment came only about six hours after rail traffic started moving again after another BNSF derailment further west near Fort Kipp on Tuesday.
Rail officials declined to specify if the train was hauling crude from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch, where growing numbers of shipments have raised safety concerns.
Trains hauling crude from the Bakken region have been involved in multiple derailments in recent years, some causing fires.
U.S. transportation officials recently extended an order for railroads to notify states about shipments of hazardous crude oil shipments.
AP writers Thomas Peipert in Denver, Matt Volz in Helena, Mont., and Bob Seavey in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A North Dakota town was evacuated after a Warren Buffett-owned oil train derailed and caught on fire

A North Dakota town was evacuated after a Warren Buffett-owned oil train derailed and caught on fire

The nearby town of Heimdal was evacuated after as many as many as 10 tank cars of a BNSF train came off the rails, local media and fire officials said. There were no injuries, officials said. BNSF is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett.
A photo posted on Facebook by a local radio station showed flames and heavy black smoke from several tank cars that had derailed in a field.
According to KX News, Heimdal is a 40-person town in central North Dakota that is located along one of the main rail lines heading east out of the giant Bakken oil patch.
About two-thirds of all North Dakota oil production is shipped by rail; three-quarters of that oil goes to refiners on the US East Coast.

rail line Google Maps/Amanda Macias/Business Insider
"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," Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration, said in a press statement.
BNSF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The derailment came just days after the US Department of Transportation and Canada's Transport Ministry announced new rules last Friday for oil trains, including phasing out older tank cars, adding electronic braking systems, and imposing speed limits. The measures were all meant to reduce the frequency and severity of oil-train crashes.
The volume of crude oil shipped by rail has rocketed in recent years as production increases from areas like North Dakota outpaced new pipeline development.
A spate of explosive accidents have accompanied that growth, the worst of which occurred in July 2013 when a train derailed in the town of Lac Megantic in Canada, killing 47 people.
Already this year, five trains have derailed and caught fire in the United States and Canada, all in rural areas. No deaths have occurred but the accidents have stoked fears about the safety of transporting crude oil by rail.
(Reporting By New York Energy desk; Editing by Frances Kerry)