Heitkamp: Feds to inspect freight rail tracks near ND crash site

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) touted a commitment from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to inspect freight rail tracks near the site of a recent derailment of a train carrying crude oil in her home state on Wednesday.

The inspections will be conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and will improve the safety of oil shipments by rail in the northwest U.S., Heitkamp said.

“We deserve to know the condition of the tracks that run through our communities, and it’s crucial that those tracks are continually checked so our towns and families aren’t at risk,” Heitkamp said in a statement.

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“It’s important the FRA has committed to look closely at the track quality around Casselton, which will go a long way to helping prevent future derailments,” Heitkamp continued. “There is no silver bullet to make our rail transportation system safer, but I’m taking a multi-faceted approach, including working with federal, state, and local officials, as well as industry, to understand what happened near Casselton, and make sure we do everything we can to prevent it happening again.”

The Obama administration and lawmakers have both promised to crack down on crude oil rail shipments in the wake of the December derailment in Casselton, which spilled 400,000 gallons of crude oil. The North Dakota accident followed an earlier 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic in Quebec province, Canada, last July that killed 42 people and incinerated 30 buildings.

The derailments reignited debate about the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which supporters say will help reduce the amount of oil that shipped by railways in the U.S.

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