Moving crude out of N.D.

We’re certainly glad no one was injured in the horrific train derailment and ensuing explosions near Casselton this week. Trains resumed rolling through the town of roughly 2,400 residents again early Thursday, as clean-up continues at the site of the accident.

The accident happened Monday when a westbound train carrying grain derailed, and a portion of it fell onto an adjacent track. Eighteen cars of an eastbound 106-car train carrying crude oil derailed, and several oil cars exploded and burned.

Many of Casselton’s residents evacuation as a precaution, but returned to their homes Tuesday afternoon.

The accident was another reminder of the changes happening in North Dakota, and the dangers surrounding all aspects of the ongoing oil boom in the western part of the state. Much of the crude oil being pumped from the Bakken formation is being transported by rail at the moment, simply because of a lack of pipeline capacity. Rail has proven to be an effective and safe method of moving oil out of North Dakota, but it also has significantly increased the state’s rail traffic. There have been pipelines built, of course, to help move oil from the state to refineries, but not enough to handle the state’s constantly rising production.

Meanwhile, the Keystone XL pipeline project waits to be approved by the Obama administration. Granted, the pipeline wouldn’t solve North Dakota’s difficulties in moving oil out of the state, but it would at least be a piece of the solution. Yes, we know there are safety and environmental concerns with pipelines, too, but our point is that, like the nation’s energy policy, North Dakota needs an “all of the above” approach to solving the oil industry’s difficulty in getting Bakken crude to refineries.