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More inspections needed for oil trains, senator says

North Dakota senator says more focus needed on safety.

By Daniel J. Graeber
More inspections needed for oil trains, senator says
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., says more inspections needed to ensure oil transport by rail is safe. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 5 (UPI) -- More inspections are needed to ensure oil delivered on the U.S. rail network is safe, a leading senator from North Dakota said.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said an appropriations bill at the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee calls for ways to improve crude oil transportation by rail.

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"Rail safety begins with the rails, which means we need more inspectors, more inspections and more technology to monitor rail conditions and train movement," Hoeven said in a statement Wednesday. "The measures we're including in the [appropriations] bill will help to prevent accidents in the first place, and to mitigate their impact when they do occur."

About 950 barrels of oil spilled when two trains operated by BNSF Railway collided and derailed in North Dakota in late December. More than 40 people died in a similar accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year.

An accelerated rate of oil production from shale plays in North America, including the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota, has strained existing refinery capacity, forcing some energy companies to turn to rail as an alternate transit method.

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Hoeven's office said more than 400,000 carloads of oil from the state's Bakken reserve area were delivered last year, compared with 9,500 carloads reported in 2008.

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