The growing concern over pipeline expansion, whether the proposed XL or Sandpiper in Minnesota, came into my mind recently. I heard on the news that Native-American tribes in Washington state and First-Nation tribes in British Columbia threatened to “go to war” over routing pipelines through their land. And, unfortunately, significant oil spills seem to be regularly occurring from both railroads and pipelines.
Some legislation did pass this session in Minnesota to try and help when spills occur. Article 10 of House File 3172 created a new pipeline and railroad safety account for spill damage. The account will consist of monies assessed equally and annually to pipeline and railroad companies for a three-year period. $2.5 million each year will go to the Commissioner of Public Safety for adequate training of fire personnel and emergency preparedness when spills happen.
Spurred on by groups like Friends of the Headwaters, Governor Dayton urged more stringent requirements on pipeline companies’ duties to respond to spills in legislative conference committee proceedings, but the Senate refused to go along with it.
A further provision in the above legislation will require the Commissioner of Public Safety to provide a report on emergency safeguards and spill response actions by January, 2015 to be given to the appropriate legislative committees. Another report also is required in 2017, with appropriate legislative recommendations.
Hopefully, the 2017 report will recommend that the pipeline and railroad safety account for spills should continue. Further actions should strengthen current law on pipeline routing, so that pipeline expansion doesn’t threaten our fabled northern lakes and rivers, and follows the path of least possible environmental damage.