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North Dakota hires consultant to study ways to improve response to crude oil incidents

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services has hired a consultant to study and recommend ways to improve the state’s preparedness and ability to respond to train derailments, spills and other incidents involving crude oil.

Washington, D.C.-based Witt O’Brien’s LLC, which opened an office in Mandan last summer, will conduct the study at a cost of $350,000. It’s expected to take about eight months to complete, the department announced Wednesday.

The department said the project will result in a “comprehensive assessment” of the risk related to the current and projected shipments of Bakken crude oil by rail across the state. As of August, about 60 percent of the oil transported from the Williston Basin was being moved by rail and 34 percent by pipeline, according to the state Pipeline Authority.

The consultant will work with state agencies and other key stakeholders to produce a written report with findings and recommendations.

“We are an energy producing state, and while efforts are ongoing by many agencies to ensure the safest possible transport of energy, we need to be able to provide the best possible response for the safety of the people of North Dakota when incidents happen,” Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, the state’s adjutant general and DES director, said in a news release.

The report will look at the state’s readiness to prevent and respond to rail, roadway, pipeline and water accidents involving crude oil.

Recommendations will address whether changes to state law and regulations are needed, the role that local governments play and how to boost coordination between local, state and federal agencies.

Greg Wilz, director of the state’s homeland security division, said the information and recommendations will help first responders and local emergency managers be better prepared to respond to crude oil incidents.

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