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Tom Sperling, Mandan, N.D., Published January 24 2014

Letter: Oil train wreck a slap in the face

Sometimes when you get slapped in the face enough times, you finally wake up.

The slap that woke me was the train derailment of Bakken crude at Casselton, N.D.

I worked as a trainman for the railroad for 37 years, and I am quite familiar with train derailments. I fear to think what the outcome of this type of derailment would have had if it had occurred in the Mandan or Harvey rail yards.

This letter is not about trains; it’s about how our elected officials, namely the State Industrial Commission, is handling the recent oil boom.

The town of Casselton was lucky. The Industrial Commission’s policy seems to be based on luck.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring make up the Industrial Commission, but they might as well be on the board of directors of any oil company.

Dalrymple’s response to the derailment revealed his priorities. He called it “a bad coincidence.”

A bad coincidence, governor? I suppose it’s also a bad coincidence that the Industrial Commission allowed an oil waste pit to be built above Ross, N.D.’s groundwater source, or that 300 oil spills have gone unreported, or that 17,000 barrels of saltwater have polluted fresh water in the Badlands?

Maybe what Dalrymple was referring to as a “bad coincidence” was that state oil “regulator” Lynn Helms promised in early December that the Industrial Commission would release a report disproving concerns about Bakken oil’s combustibility when hauled by rail. Helm’s promise, literally, went up in smoke.

The Casselton derailment has proved to eastern North Dakotans what many of us in western North Dakota have been saying all along. Helms, Dalrymple, Stenehjem and Goehring aren’t regulators. They are industry lap dogs.