Railroaded

Two Democrat state legislators got their picture in the newspaper this week for proposing a new tax and additional regulations on railroads and pipelines that transport crude oil through Minnesota.

Put aside the fact that many other flammable and explosive commodities travel by rail and pipe.  A series of high profile accidents has drawn attention to safety issues surrounding the transportation of oil.

What I find interesting is less the “what” than the “who.”  Minneapolis state representative Frank Hornstein and state senator Scott Dibble are introducing the bill.  Both hold leadership posts on transportation issues in their respective houses.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the two lawmakers are being assisted by a local non-profit, MN350.org.  The Star Tribune reports that,
The proposal also has the support of MN350, an environmental group that opposes crude oil pipelines and rail shipping.  The group’s attorney, Paul Blackburn, is helping legislators draft the language.

If you are genuinely interested in improving the safety of an activity, why would you have a group opposed to having the activity done at all write the rules for doing it?  It seems that this bill is less a safety measure than a stalking horse for a ban on transporting oil within Minnesota.  That, of course, would cause significant problems for the state’s two oil refineries.

When done by Republicans and conservatives, having an outside group draft legislation is considered a national scandal.  (Google the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC).   In fact, Sen. Dibble is the chief author of an anti-ALEC senate bill, SF 26, that seeks to outlaw the practice.

I’m sure safety improvements can be made, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of this exercise.