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The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would enable first responders to be trained in handling crude-oil train derailments and other hazardous incidents, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) announced yesterday.Heitkamp introduced the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act in response to a crude-oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D., in late 2013.The bill would establish a public-private council that combines emergency responders, federal agencies and leading experts to review training and best practices for first responders. The council would provide Congress with recommendations on how to address first responders' safety needs with increased railway safety challenges, according to a press release issued by Heitkamp's office."First responders — the vast majority of whom are volunteers in North Dakota — selflessly put their lives on the line and run toward danger to protect our families," said Heitkamp. "That's exactly what happened in Casselton one December afternoon in 2013, when responders ran toward the black smoke of a train derailment that could be seen for miles — and it's what our country has continued to see following oil train derailments throughout the country."More than 40 percent of North Dakota crude oil is transported by rail. The bipartisan legislation passed unanimously in the Senate. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
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