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Harrisburg City Council wants legislation to prevent crude oil accidents

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Harrisburg city council members are working on a resolution they say will protect residents against the threat of train derailments and explosions. Those trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Oil fields often travel through some of the most heavily populated areas of Harrisburg.

City leaders want to prevent accidents like what happened in West Virginia, and Illinois, from happening here. City council came very close to passing the resolution Tuesday night. But, they decided to wait. They want to know what types of emergency evacuations or plans are in place before moving forward.

Trains carrying Bakken crude oil are often referred to as bomb trains. They're dangerous because the oil ignites at a low temperature. People who live close to where these trains travel have nightmares of what could happen.

"Horrifying to watch the pictures and videos of the fireballs and explosions coming from the trains that have derailed. And I think this is a step in the right direction," said Allen Kennedy-Schaffer, a Harrisburg resident.

Harrisburg city councilman Brad Koplinski is the person behind this resolution. He wants the federal government to put more pressures on train companies to replace older train cars with stronger, more stable cars.

But, one of the reasons why this wasn't voted on at Tuesday's council meeting was to get more feedback from emergency management crews, and to see if these trains could avoid the city entirely.

"While they have to go to Philadelphia or Delaware refineries, lets at least not have them go through some very populous areas with 15,000 to 20,000 people," said Koplinski.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse supports Koplinski's plan. But, he doesn't want city residents to live in fear.

"Harrisburg has been dealing with the railways and the transportation of hazardous materials for over 150 years, since the beginning of the railways and we've got a pretty good track record," said Papenfuse.

Papenfuse says these trains that travel through the city go at a very slow speed and they travel over rail lines that are regularly inspected. This resolution now moves to a committee where it will be discussed further.