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Common Council now on board with Bakken oil train issue: “We have this going through the city”

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Data pix.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee's Common Council is now on board with the Bakken oil train issue. It is a concern first brought to your attention by FOX6's Brad Hicks back in November.

A huge increase in the number of trains passing through southeastern Wisconsin -- loaded with oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota is creating a new risk on the rails.

train explosions

That crude oil is particularly volatile. Trains have crashed and exploded with disastrous results.

Two Milwaukee aldermen have now introduced a resolution urging state and federal regulators to inspect all the tracks, crossings and bridges that carry Bakken crude.

"We have this going through the city," Alderman Terry Witkowski said.

"Say there is a mishap -- a derailment of an oil train," Alderman Bob Bauman said.

The reason for the resolution was made clear at a Public Works Committee meeting -- where people raised concerns about crude oil trains.

"The whole world of railroads has changed dramatically. Really, Wisconsin has become at the center of a lot of rail issues," Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said.

"When are Wisconsin citizens going to be informed this situation has changed?" Eric Hansen said.

train explosion

"You never know when or where a derailment will happen," Sara Zarling said.


"Couldn't one just go off the track in the next couple of hours?" Chris Meyer said.

Plale says he understands the concern.

"The number of cars and the volume and the frequency has just jumped dramatically," Plale said.

The federal government admits the tank cars carrying Bakken crude aren't sturdy enough to withstand a crash. Even new tank car improvements couldn't prevent two recent explosions -- one in West Virginia, and one a week later in Galena, Illinois.

"That train that blew up in Galena, Illinois -- just several minutes, about 20 to 30 minutes earlier had been in Wisconsin," Plale said.

Galena train derailment

Galena train derailment

Canadian Pacific, the railroad that carries Bakken crude through Milwaukee made it clear: They don't own the tank cars. They don't set the speed limits. They don't devise the evacuation plans.

"It seems there is a perception the railroads are short sheeting the bed when it comes to safety, and that simply wouldn't serve our purposes in this day and age to behave in an unsafe way. It's in our interest to be safe. The industry has for years been pushing the federal government for higher tank car standards," Herb Jones with Canadian Pacific said.

The final word comes from the federal government. It regulates the railroads -- and no one from those agencies was at this meeting in Milwaukee.

Two weeks ago, the federal government issued an emergency order -- setting a 40 mph speed limit for Bakken oil trains going through urban areas like Milwaukee -- although the railroads were already doing that voluntarily.

New federal standards for tank cars are expected later this year.

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  • Rob

    Yup and conservatives will once again attack green more prosperious energy sources and deny climate devestation exists

  • Michael

    Well it’s the Federal Government dragging their feet, and we all know who is in charge of that? OH OH!! Now I did it. This will all go away now, or laid at someone else feet seeing old you know who is in charge. We can’t hold him responsable can we? Just when does he become responsable?

  • s holmes

    Yeah, rails are safe & pipelines are daaangerous. I’m surprised the feds are looking into this already. They been a studyin the keystone for 6 years now, & can’t quite get a handle on it. Libs want to put a cat converter on a fruit fly & could care less about a whole train burning, oh well, its not like I really expected better of them.

  • TED

    I’m sure Common Council members ride their bikes to work and don’t use petroleum at all. Or maybe they are making the case for a pipeline.

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