The entire population of Heimdal, North Dakota has been evacuated Wednesday morning after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded. A BNSF Railway oil train derailed around 7:30 am, setting at least 10 oil tanker cars on fire. The Bismarck Tribune spoke with emergency responders who “said the the sky was black with smoke near the derailment site.”
Many hoping to stop environmental degradation of Canada’s Tar Sands and the Dakotas “Kuwait on the Prairie” have opposed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s been decades since crude oil has been shipped by rail in the United States but fracking technologies have opened up areas without oil pipelines to become major producers. As demonstrated in this NPR podcast, the railroad industry has seized on this vacuum and since 2009 has been supplying the oil industry the means to get their product to the market. Trains, however, are not the safest way to transport oil, even if they are efficient in the short run.