(Parkers Prairie, Minnesota – March 27, 2013)
A 94-car Canadian Pacific freight train hauling, among its commodities, a number of tank car loads of Canadian crude oil, derailed 14 cars, most of them tank cars, near the Otter Tail County, MN town of Parkers Prairie Wednesday morning at about 7:00 A.M.
Only the frozen landscape prevented major pollution problems as much as 30,000 gallons were released by three of the derailed and overturned rail cars, but the incident still ignited more debate over the merits of the Keystone XL Pipeline as the conveyance for Canadian crude to U.S. refineries as opposed to transit by rail, which is currently growing by massive rates.
Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg originally claimed that only a single 26,000 gallon capacity tanker was compromised, but his claims were soon found to be premature, as Minnesota Pollution Control spokesman Dan Olson revealed that spills from three of the cars had amounted to as much oil on the ground as 30,000 gallons.
The CP Rail spokesman later recanted his claim and admitted two other tank cars had been compromised during derailment clearing operations.
The accident was the first such since massive amounts of oil from Canadian tar sands and conventional oil fields began moving to American oil refineries via rail, and criticism from oil pipeline proponents was quick to surface. Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall, now a transportation consultant, said the oil haulage via rail “is good business for the rails and bad safety for the public.”
Hall added that “Railroads travel through population centers. The safest form of transport for this type of product is a pipeline. This accident could – and ought to – raise the issue for discussion.”
“It should be clear that we need to move more oil by pipeline rather than by rail or truck,” pointed out Don Canton, spokesman for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven. “That is why we need the Keystone XL. Pipelines are both safe and efficient.”