Bakken Oil Transport Still Not Safe

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster
Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

When the North Dakota Industrial Commission issued its landmark ruling last week concerning the conditioning of oil, it appeared that they were making a serious move towards improving the safety of transporting crude out of the Bakken. But according to an article in the StarTribune, the new regulations, which go into effect April 2, 2015, won’t bring the industry any closer to a solution for a serious problem that is drawing fire from legislators, concerned citizens and environmental groups.

Alan Stankevitz, an expert on the DOT 111 tanker car, explains in the StarTribune that the standards set by the commission, which includes Gov. Jack Dalrymple, are not enough to adequately address the problem. The order establishes new regulations that demand facilities to maintain an operating pressure at less than 13.7 psi. This is a much larger number than the volatility point for Bakken crude, which is between 11.5 and 11.8 psi.

Stankevitz writes, “The bottom line is that the limit has been set so high by North Dakota that the mandate is toothless. The same volatile oil that caused the massive explosions in Casselton, N.D., and Lac-Mégantic would still have been allowed to ride the rails, according to this new mandate.

Stankevitz goes on to charge the commission with using ‘smoke and mirror tactics’ to divert attention away from the real issue, which he believes to be the routine use of old and outdated tanker cars that are leased by the petroleum industry for transportation.

Read more in the Star Tribune.