RON SCHALOW: Washington State Opts Out of Bakken Oil Train Lotto, Part 1

The odds are too good.

Washington does realize that this move will lower its chances of winning any fiery Bakken surprise prizes to zero, but it’s willing to forgo the suspense. Too much quid, so little quo.

The Bakken Bosses — it’s an industry AND state enterprise — as in “Are you talking to me?” or “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.” It depends. “What? Of course, our train shipments are safe. Are you kidding me? We have studies. Do YOU have studies?” So, anyway, they’re irritated.

The bark fondlers felt threatened, so they threatened to hold a possible world-record length meeting — we won’t know until it’s over — to discuss the information the group has accumulated if North Dakota sues to force a known danger on their state.

“They blow up,” yelled a hairy state resident sitting in back, alluding to the Bakken oil trains. “Nine out of 10 derailments resulted in crazy dangerous balls of fire. Dozens of tankers released Hades in Quebec. Why in the hell would we Washingtonians agree to potentially lose any number of humans or buildings because two farmers and a lawyer in North Dakota decided that living beings weren’t on their list of concerns?”

“Nailed it. Problem solved. Motion to adjourn.”

“Nice elocution, hirsute dude, but actually it’s only the contents of the tanker cars that blow up,” said a guy wearing a ski hat on a very hot day. “The contents of oil trains from other shale plays don’t blow up in a derailment because they take the gases out before shipping. And for those who don’t know every sordid detail, the two farmers and one attorney who made up the North Dakota Industrial Commission a few years ago traded in one of the farmers for a tech millionaire. They occasionally regulate the oil business in that state.”

“Oh, look at me. I’m Mr. Beanie Cap beatnik. I know every sordid thing.”

“Shut up, Mom!”


It’s true. Washington decided that it was under no obligation to follow any N.D. state law unless its aura was actually in North Dakota. Like if Hostfest happens, W.A. attends, and a Bill Cosby beef breaks out. People are hurt and one of their metal buildings is dented. Arrests are imminent.

Only if that exact scenario plays out will the people of the state of Washington ever say, “Of course we’ll pay for the damage. And please extend our apologies to Charlie Pride when he comes to.”

So W.A. made its own law forbidding the transport of Bakken crude into the state with a vapor pressure of more than 9.0 psi., meaning more of the dissolved explosive gases would need to be stripped from the raw Bakken crude BEFORE a train trip. Don’t tread on me, man. And stay off the grass.

It was bound to happen. Lawmakers from SOME state had to be the first to leave the unconditional one-sided arrangement. The prizes are terrible. When Lac-Megantic won the Power Fire Ball, it got the whole incineration package, including 47 deaths, massive property damage, an oily river and lake and a general gumming up of every crevice of below-ground utilities.

North Dakota bosses — Hi Harold — wanted the vapor pressure limit to be 13.7 because they knew that 13.7 can be accomplished by getting a dragonfly to take a delicate sip of butane before firing up the locomotive. North Dakota granted that wish.

The oil barons can no longer leave nearly all of the dissolved explosive natural gas liquids in the soup and still get under the 9.0 psi., Washington standard. The extractors were hoping that the North Dakota law would inoculate the oil companies from stabilizing the crude since the frackers never installed the equipment necessary to score close to a 9.0 psi. without flaring off a lot of money.

Who could have seen that coming?

Did the bi-institutional forces of the Bakken seriously think they could permanently set a bogus national standard? They arrived at a number that would be the least safe option for the public. They care about us otherwise, though. Right?

If they have to strip the gases from the crude at this point the project would be enormously expensive, which is of great concern to N.D. officials. They seem to think that the cost of needed infrastructure and equipment would come out out of their own pockets.

But on the upside, flaring would be cut, and the producers still can sell the valuable gases individually to buyers of propane, butane, ethane and whatever else makes the current concoction bubble-like cheap champagne.

“HEY, I haven’t got all day,” shouts “that” guy. “Everyone sit back down and talk more.”

“Dang it! I’m hearing voices again,” muttered a dozen attendees.

The meeting resumes:

“Hold on just a minute,” shrieks Mookie Benson, aka Hans Anderson, aka the Yakima Yodeler. “Did everyone catch that? Did I hear right? Why in the world don’t the North Dakota politicians want three or four billion new dollars invested in the Bakken region? It seems contrary to the economic interests of the state.”

“Sing it, Steve.”

“It’s fishy, Yakima. How long have you still been alive?”

“You know,” murmured a ‘soft for the situation’ voice. The speaker stands and the room goes quiet. “I don’t even mind that the Bakken mixture IS too dangerous. I mind WHY it is too dangerous? They could make the oil trains way less unsafe if they chose to, but that would mean a big investment and less short term profit. Money over lives. That’s more than a character flaw.”

“Who is that lady? Doesn’t she look like Lulu’s cousin from Portland?”

“Maine or Oregon?”

As the voice of the North Dakota Young Republicans, Raheem Williams might tell you that more people are killed by piranhas in swimming pools. The chlorine makes them mad.

Scum stands and the room goes quiet. His hair is cut like a hedge. “As a scum who wasn’t here before the break, don’t feel bad for starting without me. I’ll catch up.”

“Buy a belt, man.”

“Shut up. Roy is going to talk.”

“Thank you, Royal Jr., for that warm introduction. Our ad hoc group has been watching the North Dakota oil gang operate against public safety since at least 2008,” states Roy Geiger Sr., an unofficial spokesperson for anything he feels like and the deepest state in Spokane.

“We know how to read. We have notebooks. This state has elevation, but we know how to read. And we Washingtonians know about Luther, 

Oklahoma, the first display of what unconventional unstabilized Bakken crude will do when a railroad container gets punctured and the gases find a single spark. We know.”

“I have a binder, Roy.”

“Who knows things? We know things,” chants the room, except for the hipster anti-chanters in the second row and a few “zipped upper lips” scattered about the mezzanine. They don’t like to be boastful about stupid things.

“THE PHOTOGRAPH, ahem, please observe the photograph on the left of the screen,” interjects the Scum. “Notice the flame shooting a good distance horizontally. And earlier in this scene, a Bakken fireball startled a helicopter lounging too casually over the roiling fire of the wreck. It’s all on YouTube. ‘Luther derailment explosion 8/22/08.’ It’s quite impressive.”

“We know that on —”

“And the picture up there on the right is of a single tanker car explosion into a monstrous mushroom cloud. Over 60 Bakken tankers erupted that night in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. This is one. Don’t get me started on the dozens of people who died in that hellscape.”

“OK, thank you Scum,” coughs Geiger. “Again, we know that on Jan. 2, 2014, the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a safety alert to the ‘public, emergency responders and shippers and carriers’ that crude oil from the Bakken region may be “more flammable” than traditional crude oil. Ya think? And by ‘more flammable,’ PHMSA means explosive.”

“They issued the warning a couple of days after the Casselton incident,” adds a never-Trumper. “Where was Joe Biden when this happened? He was with a hunter, wasn’t he?”

“I’ll bet $12 that the Bakken bullies are they afraid the feds will toss the vapor pressure rules for both N.D. and W.A. and set a nationwide rule requiring all fracked crude to be stabilized down to the molecular studs? My name is Steve Leskavo and I authorize Nike to use my words in ad campaigns.”

Mookie’s brother, Hasan, who can’t yodel worth spit, says, “You should never let anyone know you’re carrying that kind of cash, Lesky. You’re just inviting a mugger to clean you out.”

“Did the red state officials warn ANYONE?” asks the younger Geiger aka “Geiger counter,” because there are a ton of Geigers and RJ counts them all off by name at parties when people linger. He’s on call to provide the repellant service at reasonable prices most weekend nights.

No, no warning. They did just the opposite. They looked the other way. They looked at their feet. Who knows where they looked? It’s not the point. The N.D. oil caucus defends the ancient quirk of timing and conditions that created juicy carbon like Kevin Cramer scratches and squirms to find a rationale for the incomprehensible existence of Donald Trump.”

“I’m bored. You’re boring. Talk normally. And don’t tell me there are plenty of fish in the sea. I’ve seen the reports.”

“I’m outraged,” howled a female Geiger. “For chrissakes, children warn strangers not to look directly into the sun during an eclipse. This is on top of the already popular, ‘Don’t stare at any bright objects that make you blind, and never put your head in a plastic produce bag,’ but no warning was issued from any of the North Dakota people that I can find published anywhere. Of course, if you’ve ever seen photos and video of Bakken rail cars shooting fireballs into the clouds, you would know them to be dangerous, but not everyone in the country who would be affected was made aware after the first, or second, or third, or fourth, or ninth fiery accident.”

“NOBODY in the general public was ever warned after the first visual evidence of Bakken oil kick,” claimed a pushy sort.

Miss Geiger sighs and cites a five years old email response from a particularly dense N.D. state senator. We’ll call him Oley. “Quote: ‘I would expect that anyone living by the railroad tracks know the dangers if they don’t they should educate themselves on the facts of these dangers. They can contact the BNSF people to get this information. It has to be listed on what travels through their area. We are not at the mercy of the ND petroleum council or the NDGOP.'”

Miss Geiger turns livid. “Oh, I’m educated baby, but it’s that kind of attitude that made me warn the masses and dislike the dopey senator with the frozen melon on his shoulders.”

“Nobody warned me about pumpkin spice pork chops, man, and now I’m hearing voices.”

One thought on “RON SCHALOW: Washington State Opts Out of Bakken Oil Train Lotto, Part 1”

  • Susan Gorr November 20, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Washington deciders are doing what they are tasked to do and I really admire that. Lives over money, it should be so obvious. Colorful wrap up Ron!’


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