A train carrying more than 100 cars full of crude oil jumped the track and caught fire in rural North Dakota on Wednesday, less than a week after federal officials announced new rules aimed at preventing similar accidents.
The derailment occurred Wednesday morning outside tiny Heimdal, North Dakota, about 50 miles east of Minot, the BNSF Railway reported. Local news outlets reported the population of fewer than 30 people and a few nearby farms had been evacuated.
There were no injuries reported, but the state Department of Health urged people with respiratory issues to avoid the smoke.
"The smoke plume is not dispersing well because of current weather conditions," the agency warned. "Much of the smoke is remaining close to the ground, where it has greater potential to exacerbate breathing problems."
It's the latest in a string of fiery accidents involving so-called "bomb trains" hauling large quantities of crude from the booming North Dakota oil fields. With pipelines scarce in the region, the oil that's being pumped out of the Bakken shale is largely being shipped by rail. The worst such crash killed 47 people in 2013, when a runaway train derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
US and Canadian authorities announced on Friday new regulations aimed at preventing future accidents. But they came under fire almost immediately from both the rail industry and its critics, who said the new rules didn't go far enough. The CEO of the Norfolk Southern railway told The Wall Street Journal that the industry will take the government to court over the new rules, saying they will make shipping crude by rail prohibitively expensive.
BNSF said the rail cars involved in Wednesday's crash were "unjacketed" CPC-1232s — a newer model than the most accident-prone type, but one that lacks a protective outer layer. Under the new regulations, unjacketed CPC-1232s will be allowed to haul crude oil until 2020.
A team from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been dispatched to investigate the derailment, the agency said.
"Today's incident is yet another reminder of why we issued a significant, comprehensive rule aimed at improving the safe transport of high hazard flammable liquids," acting FRA Director Sarah Feinberg said.