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Letter: Who knew what when in North Dakota

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opinion Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

When the first quart of freshly fracked Bakken crude was drawn from the earth a few years back, a white-coated chemist swished the sample around the beaker, took a sniff, and said to his associate: “I’d put your cigarette out, if I were you.”

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Oh, well. They crossed their fingers and proceeded to ship millions of barrels of the potent oil through pipelines and in substandard rail cars.

Then, on July 6, 2013, a runaway 74-car train carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken reserve derailed and incinerated a good portion of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, along with 47 people. Some bodies were likely vaporized.

What was the reaction from North Dakota regulators, politicians and the press? Meh. Another country, too far away, I guess.

But when a mushroom cloud appeared on the horizon six months later outside of Casselton, N.D., the usual suspects were crawling over each other to voice their concern and launch the requisite investigations and studies to determine the volatility of our sweet crude. Here’s a thought. Fill up a Mason jar with the stuff and drop a match in it. If the front of your body is char-broiled, the liquid is dangerous.

Was anyone, in any state or province, warned of what was passing through their territory? The mayor of Casselton was certainly surprised.

Did past and current members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission and Industrial Commission, including Congressman Kevin Cramer, Brian Kalk, Doug Goehring, Julie Fedorchak, Randy Christmann, Jack Dalrymple and Wayne Stenehjem, know about the explosive nature of Bakken crude before people died? How about legislators who strutted around the Oil Patch in their fancy yellow plastic hats?

And, if not, why didn’t they know?

Ron Schalow, Fargo

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