CP Rail train derails in Minnesota, spills oil

A CP Rail train travels down the tracks. Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press archives

PARKERS PRAIRIE, Minn. – Thousands of gallons of oil leaked onto frozen ground after a Canadian Pacific train carrying crude from Canada derailed Wednesday in western Minnesota.

The 94-car train was headed south near Parkers Prairie, about 150 kilometres southeast of Fargo, N.D., when it lost air pressure and went into an emergency braking mode, the Otter Tail County sheriff’s office said. Fourteen tankers derailed and three either leaked or spilled oil. No one was hurt, and a spokesman for the state’s pollution control agency said crews were able to control the spill.

An estimated 76,000 to 113,000 litres of oil leaked onto the ground, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Dan Olson said.

The spill was contained in a field and ditch in a rural area, and the cold weather helped keep the spill contained and prevented oil from moving down the ditch or into the ground, Olson said.

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One heavily damaged car spilled much of its 100,000-litre load, Olson said. He said the oil was “just oozing out” in the cold.

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Because the ground is frozen, there’s no threat to water, Olson said. Initial recovery efforts likely will take a day or two, and excavations then will be done to determine if any oil leaked into the soil, he said.

The railroad was cleaning up the spill, Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg said.

While the spill appeared to be under control from an ecological standpoint, it could play a role in the politics surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from oilsands in Canada to refineries in Texas.

Environmentalists have criticized the proposal, saying a pipeline could be prone to spills and would ensure that the carbon-laden oilsands are fully developed.

A recent analysis from the State Department seemed to knock down one of their arguments, by saying that when it comes to global warming, shipping the oil by pipeline would release less pollution than using rail.

Greenberg said he did not know if the oil that spilled was from the oilsands. The train, carrying a mix of cargo, originated in Western Canada and was bound for Chicago, he said.

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