CS Masthead

Culbertson Could Be At Higher Risk From Oil Trains Than Thought

A recently publicized and previously unreported federal report underscores public safety risks from oil trains that pass through many communities including Wolf Point, Poplar, Culbertson and Bainville.
The analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation of risks associated with moving large quantities of crude oil or ethanol across the nation predicted 15 derailments of tanker trains in 2015 and an average of 10 each year over the coming 20 years. The analysis also predicts the possibility of large numbers of fatalities if accidents occurred in populated areas and more than $4 billion in damages.
The federal analysis was completed in July 2014.
“Actually [the oil trains] scare me,” Roosevelt County’s Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator Dan Sietsema said.
“If one of them exploded within the city limits [of Wolf Point], the isolation area is one-half mile. I’m not sure how much destruction there would be from the explosion. Several blocks at least. It would be at least half the town that would be impacted and our business district is downtown and along the railroad tracks,” he said.
“We’re in the process of developing an exercise for the emergency responders” Sietsema said.
There have been at least 21 accidents involving oil train trains in the United States and Canada since 2006 that resulted in either derailment, fire or significant fuel spills, or all three. Thirty-three ethanol train accidents were reported during the same nine-year period.
About half of those trains were hauling crude oil from the Bakken region including two that were involved in accidents this month. Nineteen tanker cars of a CSX train derailed in a rural area of West Virginia Monday, Feb. 16, causing a fire that destroyed one home, injured one person, spilled more than 3 million gallons of crude into a tributary of the Kanawha River and burned for several days forcing the evacuation of several hundred people. The train had just passed through a town with a population of about 2,000.
Twenty-nine tanker cars on a Canadian National Railway train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in a rural area in Ontario, Saturday, Feb. 14, resulting in a fire and oil spill.
In July 2013, 72 cars from a train carrying 1.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and ravaging about a square mile of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, located about 10 miles from the U.S. border.
Trains hauling Bakken crude oil have also been involved in major accidents in North Dakota, Alabama, Oklahoma and Virginia.
According to reports, rail shipments of crude oil have increased from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to more than 435,000 in 2013, driven by the Bakken boom in North Dakota and Montana.
Limited pipeline capacity forces about 70 percent of crude oil to reach refineries by rail, according to American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Culbertson Spelling Bee


Culbertson school held its spelling bee competition on Monday, Feb. 23. First place went to Zachary Miller with Mariah Cathey second and Holly Colgan third. Alternates are Lauren Lambert, Ashtyn Ator and Lucus Oelkers. The three winning participants and three alternates will have the opportunity to spell again at the Culbertson school for the Roosevelt County Spelling Bee Thursday, Feb. 26, at 1 p.m.  (Submitted photo)

Froid Spelling Bee Winners


The Froid Spelling Bee was held Monday, Feb. 23, at the school with students in grades 5-8. Boys and girls will compete in the Roosevelt County Spelling Bee in Culbertson, Thursday, Feb. 26. Pictured are (front row, from left to right) Brett Stentoff and Hudson Kjos (back row) Molly Danielson, Sydney Dethman and Sidney Labatte.  (Submitted photo)

Commissioners Approve Purchase Of Sheriff’s Car

The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved the purchase of a 2015 Dodge Charger for the sheriff’s office from Northern Prairie Auto Sales for $25,448 Tuesday, Feb. 24.
The commission passed a resolution allowing the expenditure of grant funds by the sheriff’s office for a vehicle purchase and employee overtime. The grant is for $50,852.
The commissioners also authorized the purchase of a chest freezer for the sheriff’s office from Gysler’s Furniture and Appliance.
The commission also approved an agreement with Great Northern Development Corp. to administer a grant to fund an architect for a senior center in Poplar.
The commissioners authorized the county to hire Montana Grafix of Chinook to design a new website for the county. The county will own the domain.
The commission appointed Lindsey McNabb and John Plestina to the county’s mosquito board.

Federal Funding Losses To Counties Little Impact On Roosevelt County

While many of Montana counties have lost a total of about $20 million in the bipartisan spending bill that avoided another government shutdown, the impact to Roosevelt County is between $600 and $800.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., co-authored bipartisan legislation that would restore Secure Rural Schools program and Payment In Lieu of Taxes funding to 2011 levels and extend both programs for three years.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., supports the legislation.
PILT benefits most counties in Montana with funding for federal lands that local governments cannot tax.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating through September. That legislation excludes the $330 million Secure Rural Schools program.
The lions share of the PILT funding in Montana benefits counties in the western part of the state, Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
“We have very little federal land,” he said.
PILT benefits counties in several western states with public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.
Valley County receives considerably more in PILT funding than Roosevelt County because of a presence of BLM lands.
Another issue is that there is no authorization for PILT funding for Indian reservation lands, which comprise most of Roosevelt County.
“I wish it [reservation lands] did. We have periodically tried to get it to count [for PILT],” Macdonald said.
“The National Association of Counties has looked at it. I don’t know if it will ever hit Congress,” he said.

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