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Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Warns Oil Trains Increase Safety Risks

Jeff Plale Plans Meetings With First Responders To Prepare For Local Rail Emergencies

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The state’s top railroad official says the increasing number of oil trains in Wisconsin is prompting him to meet with more emergency responders, beginning Tuesday in Winnebago County.

Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said he’s worried that too many motorists and pedestrians don’t pay close enough attention at rail crossings. Mishaps can not only lead to one person’s death or injury Plale said, but when oil trains are involved, a collision or derailment could lead to an explosion with the potential to kill many people and damage communities.

“Anytime you’re in a densely populated area, there’s a legitimate concern,” Plale said. “All the more reason to be prepared and have the first respondents know what to do.”

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Some critics of oil trains say the state should also be gathering information on how many people live within the so-called blast zone of a tank car explosion. Plale said he doesn’t like the term blast zone, but indicated the data could be determined from census reports.

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