A series of recent fiery train derailments has revealed how volatile is Bakken Shale oil, some of which moves from the upper Great Plains into Wisconsin by train, and also by pipeline to Superior.
Here are details of a pipeline expansion into our state as the Bakken Shale oil fracking boom expands (with help from Wisconsin sand exports that are creating their own set of land use and water table problems, by the way).
How confident are state and local public safety officials that Wisconsin communities will not be torched in oil train derailments or contaminated by pipeline spills?
Lamentably, the point person in Wisconsin on rail safety is not a safety expert.
He is former Milwaukee-area State Sen. Jeff Plale, who, after a primary defeat, was rewarded by Gov. Scott Walker for opposing climate change legislation and public employee contracts with a gubernatorial appointment as Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner.
His take on shipping Bakken crude through Wisconsin:
...Plale says it's no fiction that oil train traffic from the Dakotas, to and through Wisconsin, has increased by quite a bit. “The Canadian Pacific refers to that as their rolling pipeline – also, Burlington Northern through the western part of the state,” says Plale. “And it’s going through refineries down south and out east.”
Plale says he’s been talking with the train companies about safety, especially in light of an uptick in freight rail incidents in Wisconsin last year and other oil train accidents in the United States and Canada. He urges Wisconsin citizens to contact him about any poor track conditions.Here's a suggestion: Instead of a pothole hotline approach, and given the recent oil train derailments, and the awareness that Bakken Shale crude is easily explosive, let's have Plale, other officials and actual experts bring the public into a transparent, take-charge process that writes and implements an updated, more assertive oil shipping safety plan for Wisconsin.