Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) held a meeting last night in La Crosse, WI, to discuss the proposal to build a second rail line in the middle of La Crosse.  It was packed, over 300 people, standing room only.  The comments of those attending shows the level of concern over   The rail company, BNSF, claims a second line is necessary due to increased traffic.  We’ve seen the increase, I’ve experienced it here in Red Wing, watching the trains rumble through the heart of town.  Well, folks, it’s time for us to rumble!

Residents express concerns over new rail line

Rail expansion prompts worries about dangerous cargo, unsafe rail cars

STrib article about the unsafe rail cars:

Failure rates raising new fears over use of aging oil tankers

And more on the La Crosse proposal:

Local group tries to stop train

New tracks could cause change to local golf course



Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the “Green Chameleon,” but Gov. Mark Dayton doesn’t even pretend to be green.  Today, he showed his true colors, delivering a harsh undercutting “rebuff” of a statement just prior to petitions being delivered to his office, petitions with 6,000 signatures, obtained with a lot of effort from a lot of citizens, requesting he enact a moratorium to stop new frac sand mines in Southeast Minnesota.  To deliver this message in the way that he did says a lot for his regard for his constituents and their concerns.  How hard would it have been to meet with those delivering the Petitions, to graciously accept them, and at least consider the request, take it under advisement?

I sure hope everyone is talking about our Governor.  WOW!

6,000 signatures… how many does it take for a recall election?!?!?!?!

Here’s his statement:

“During the 2013 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton strongly supported a moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota. Unfortunately, that proposal was not supported by the Minnesota Legislature. Legal Counsel has advised that, absent legislative enactment of the moratorium, the Governor lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his own moratorium.
“However, local jurisdictions, such as counties, cities, and townships, have authority under existing Minnesota Statutes to declare moratoriums on frac sand mining and processing within their jurisdictions. Citizens living in those areas should urge those local officials to enact the measures they favor.
“Last year’s law did greatly strengthen state agencies’ authority to impose stringent requirements on any frac sand mining in that region. The Environmental Quality Board, DNR, and MPCA are all actively engaged in establishing and enforcing those restrictions.”


As for the “Critical Areas Act” as the basis for a moratorium, well, I’m not so sure about that…  There are a few steps that have to happen before it goes to the Governor.   Minn. Stat. 116G.06.

Here’s where you can tell him directly what you think of his treatment of concerned Minnesotans:

Contact Form

Telephone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717


The report on MPR:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium

The report in the STrib:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium in southeastern Minn.

Says he lacks authority for the southeastern Minnesota ban sought by mining opponents

Bakken BOOM and rail safety

April 17th, 2014

LacMegantic_QB Jesus blessing fire

There are more and more aspects of rail safety coming into question as people learn about life with the many Bakken oil trains rolling through our communities.

What about the greatly increased air emissions due to the increased rail traffic?  Locomotive emissions are regulated:

EPA Control of Emissions from Idling Locomotives 420f13050

The short version, from the EPA:

General Information

That regulates individual locomotives, but how are the cumulative impacts of so many trains addressed, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley, the “land of inversions?”

There’s continued talk about the new DOT111 rail cars, but how will that address the problem of volatility, that the Bakken crude contains a much higher level of gas than other crude, and that although regulators have said that the Bakken crude should be degasified before it is shipped, whether by rail or pipeline, this is not yet incorporated into standard practice.  And it bears repeating — this is an issue for Bakken crude in pipelines!  Pipelines are not a miracle cure for the Bakken crude volatility problem!

1-2-14 DOT Rail Safety Alert

It can happen here.  It has happened here.  It will happen here.  What do we do to protect ourselves?

This is a train incident in September, 2013 just across the river in Hager City, WI:


And in Red Wing:


A Wisconsin town’s fire chief was part of a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recently regarding rail safety.  The station is one block from the river and the railroad tracks.  Congressman Kind asked the fire chief what the impact of a Bakken oil wreck would be on his community, if the fire unit could respond, and the fire chief said, “I doubt it, we’d be vaporized.”

If a Lac Megantic level explosion occurred in Red Wing, presuming that buildings two blocks from the explosion would be leveled, and maybe three blocks, it would reach to Main Street, and perhaps the block beyond:


This is how it is in all the communities along the Mississippi River, a disaster waiting to happen for us, for the River.

There’s a reason it’s called the “Bakken Boom.”  BOOM!


And in the La Crosse Tribune:

Meeting set on rail expansion


The prospect of more rail cars carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids through the region has prompted a public meeting Tuesday to air concerns about BNSF Railway Co.’s plans to add a second, parallel line on La Crosse’s east side.

The expansion would eliminate the rail company’s last segment of single track in La Crosse County and reduce train delays in La Crosse, BNSF officials said.

But Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, contends the second track would raise the risk of a serious rail accident in a residential area or a major spill in the La Crosse River Marsh and other nearby waterways and sensitive habitat.

About 60 trains a day use the BNSF line in La Crosse, which now narrows to a single track from its yard near Gillette Street in north La Crosse to just south of Farnam Street. U.S. rail traffic has increased in recent years, primarily triggered by the surge in Bakken oil being shipped from North Dakota and Montana to refineries in the east and south. U.S. railroads were expected to haul 400,000 carloads of oil in 2013, almost 40 times the number seen in 2009.

That rail surge has come at a cost, though, with at least four major oil train explosions in North America in less than a year, one of which killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013.

The region has seen three derailments and spills within about 90 miles of La Crosse since February, CARS members said.

“They’re shipping hazardous materials through La Crosse,” George Nygaard said, “and it’s in containers not made for hazardous materials.”

The rail industry has persisted in using outdated tank cars known to be more prone to puncture or rupture in an accident to carry the more volatile Bakken light crude, he said.

CARS members maintain the increased traffic also produces more noise, vibrations, diesel emissions and other effects on air quality along the line.

The city, too, faces a substantial cost — perhaps six or seven figures — to adjust road and trail crossings and the Forest Hills Golf Course to accommodate the second track, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who lives less than a block from the BNSF line. He plans to be at the meeting along with other local legislators.

The city council recently approved funding for a title search to determine whether BNSF really does own the strip of Forest Hills land where it wants to install the new line.

The potential for some type of accident was highlighted in February when a malfunctioning Canadian Pacific Railway tanker dribbled more than 12,000 gallons of crude oil along a stretch of tracks near Winona, Minn., with some falling into area waterways and trout streams.

“There’s some real concerns — what if it happens in La Crosse?” Kabat said.


Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Vicki Jensen have introduced three bills related to rail safety, triggered by the recent Bakken oil rail car derailments and explosions.

2014 Bills jpegHere’s a pdf with clickable links to check out the specific language and status:

2014 Bakken Oil Rail Safety Bills pdf

TO DO: Contact House Committee members and urge passage:

In the House, all the bills have been referred to Transportation Finance (HF 3134 after a trip through the Transportation Policy and Public Safety committees), so now we’ve got to contact those in Transportation Finance to move HF 3133, HF 3134 & HF 3135 on to the House floor — it’s Frank’s committee so he shouldn’t have any trouble getting a hearing!!!  Contact info for House Finance members HERE!

TO DO: Contact Senate Committee members and urge passage:

In the Senate, two have been referred to Transportation and Public Safety (SF 2795 and SF 2796), and one to Environment and Energy (SF 2797).  Contact info for Transportation and Public Safety HERE!  Sen. Scott Dibble is Chair so there should be no problem getting a hearing here either!!  Contact info for Environment and Energy HERE!

Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee will hear them tomorrow:

     Wednesday, March 26, 2014

     Committee on Transportation and Public Safety
     Chair: Sen. D. Scott Dibble
03:00 PM
Room 15 Capitol

Something very noticeable here in this district is that Rep. Matt Kelley and Rep. Steve Drazkowski have not signed on.  ????  This is a huge issue for those of us along the Mississippi with the rail line running right through town.

TO DO: Contact these legislators along the tracks and urge them to sign on (and also those towards Fargo too, don’t know where the train runs there):

Reps: rep.tim.kelly@house.mn (21A); rep.steve.drazkowski@house.mn (21B); rep.gene.pelowski@house.mn (28A); rep.greg.davids@house.mn (28B); rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn (58B).

Senators: sen.jeremy.miller@senate.mn (28); sen.dave.thompson@senate.mn (58).

Why aren’t state Representatives and Senators in SE Minnesota acting on this explosive issue?

Here are notes from a City of Red Wing meeting with CP on March 17th:

Red Wing Mtg with CP_Pages 87-88 from 11_-_Attachment


The Minesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is in charge of organizing the three rulemakings mandated by last year’s silica sand bill, and it’s really not that complicated — narrow specific issues.  From the Session Law, here’s what they’re supposed to do.

    Sec. 105. RULES; SILICA SAND.
(a) The commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency shall adopt rules pertaining to the control of particulate emissions from silica sand projects. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(b) The commissioner of natural resources shall adopt rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(c) By January 1, 2014, the Department of Health shall adopt an air quality health-based value for silica sand.
(d) The Environmental Quality Board shall amend its rules for environmental review, adopted under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D, for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the
size of specific operations. The Environmental Quality Board shall consider whether the requirements of Minnesota Statutes, section 116C.991, should remain part of the environmental review requirements for silica sand and whether the requirements should be different for different geographic areas of the state. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.

Do notice that each directive for rulemaking says that “The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.“  That’s code words for “take your time, we’re in no hurry to see anything accomplished.  Dawdle, go around in circles, fall down, and get lost along the way…”  Folks, that’s just what we’re experiencing in this rulemaking process, molasses on a cold day in hell.

Initially, the MPCA resisted forming an Advisory Committee.  Those of us who’ve participated in rulemaking before know that the Advisory Committee is where it happens, where you can have some meaningful input, because in the world of rulemaking, you can’t adopt a rule that is substantially different than that offered for comment by the agency.  Therefore has to happen at the draft stage, before the agency releases it.   But this MPCA is the same MPCA that worked very hard to avoid having a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, despite it being expressly authorized by statute.  Once more, with feeling:


Subd. 2.Advisory committees.

Each agency may also appoint committees to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.

MPCA staff’s report to the EQB stated inexplicably that they were “confused,” claiming ignorance of how rulemakign works and the impact of comments at this stage:

i. Staff requests Board direction on a question that arose at the August 2nd public meetings.
Members of the public expressed interest in a citizen committee to participate in the rulemaking. It is not clear how a citizen committee would affect the rulemaking process laid out in Minn. Statutes Ch. 14. A multi-step public review and comment process is already required in that statute and we just completed the preliminary step. Rulemaking is essentially creating law: Minnesota Rules have the force and effect of law. Rulemaking is a lengthy process, averaging about two years.

As I said in comments prior to, during, and after the meeting, “It is not clear…”  NO NO NO!  For someone in Smyser’s position, there’s no excuse for statements like this.  The statute is very clear about the agencies’ authority to appoint an Advisory Committees and how an advisory committee it would affect rulemaking – it improves the output by providing input before the draft rule is issued.


CLICK HERE FOR RULES ON RULES (don’t worry, it’s not a mobius strip), 1400.2000 – 1400.2570.

Here’s how the Dept. of Health explains the role of Advisory Committee members (link to their entire Rulemaking Manual below, it could be helpful for those stuck in this molasses process, yes this is about Health, but the intrinsic role and function of an Advisory Committee remains the same):

The Role of the Advisory Committee.

-          Advice, not voting. The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise [the agency] on the development of these rules. [The agency] looks to the Advisory Committee for its expertise in these regulations.] The Advisory Committee does not have voting authority on what will go in the rules; the [Commissioner] makes any final decisions. The Advisory Committee does, however, have the power of persuasion and the power that comes from having the information needed to make these rules workable.

-          Represent your interest group. Each of you likely represents an interest group in one way or another, be it [for example: small hospitals or large hospitals, urban hospitals or rural hospitals, large health care organizations or small health care organizations, consumers, hospital administrators, hospital accounting departments, hospital professional organizations], and so on. We encourage you to maintain communication with others who share your interests.

-          Consensus. Our goal is to achieve consensus on as many issues as possible. Even where there is disagreement on some issues, we hope to make the rules as workable as possible for those who have to comply with them.

-          Reasonable comments and suggestions. We will carefully consider all comments and suggestions about the rules. You will have the most success persuading [the agency] with your comments and suggestions if you give reasons along the same lines as how [the agency] has to justify the need for and reasonableness of everything in the rules.

And now, about ten months after the legislation was passed, TEN MONTHS, rulemaking is flailing about, there is no language proposed, and staff has no language.  What’s going on?  My money is on one path — that they’ll stall and bamboozle with bullshit and take in a few general comments, and then hand the draft rule that they want, without any draft, without any review by the Committee, to the agency to issue a SONAR, Notice and put out for public comment, totally blowing off the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Whatever their intent, the impact is that tempest is a fugiting and there’s nothing to show for the time slowly ticking away.

Why would I say such a thing?  First, again, there is no draft language for the Committee to review.  None, nada, nothing for any of the three rules they’re charged with drafting.  So what exactly are they doing?

Second, they are for sure bamboozling them with bullshit, because look what’s posted as materials, from the Silica Sand Advisory Panel page:

Resources for the panel and the public



Information sources


Existing rules

Environmental Quality Board

HTML ContentMinn. Rules 4410 – Environmental ReviewExternal Link

Air: State and federal

 OH.   MY.   DOG.

Now honestly, can you look at that without getting dizzy?  If all that crap doesn’t have Committee members, most or all of whom have no experience in rulemaking, ready to commit hari-kari, or go utterly insane, or both…

MPCA, just get to the rulemaking, give the public the draft language, so we can tell you what we think about it.  Show us you’re not acting in bad faith.

D-R-A-F-T   L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E!

Feel free to let them know what you think, what you expect of the rulemaking process, and what you want to see for the draft rules:




And in the alternative, methinks we’d best come up with some specific draft language now, if not sooner.  Show ‘em how it’s supposed to be done.