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Fiery Derailment of Train Carrying Ethanol Forces Evacuations in Minnesota

The train’s operator, BNSF, has lobbied aggressively against safety regulations in recent years.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), which is controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has lobbied aggressively against enhanced rail safety regulations at the state and federal levels.

A BNSF train carrying ethanol derailed and caught fire early Thursday morning in Raymond, Minnesota, forcing residents living near the crash site to evacuate.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has faced backlash for responding inadequately to the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, said the Federal Railroad Administration is “on the ground’ in Raymond following the derailment.

“At present no injuries or fatalities have been reported,” said Buttigieg. “We are tracking closely as more details emerge.”

BNSF, which is controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has lobbied aggressively against enhanced rail safety regulations at the state and federal levels in recent years.

An OpenSecrets analysis published earlier this month found that BNSF has spent nearly $13 million on state-level lobbying since 2003. BNSF’s parent company is also among the rail industry’s top federal lobbying spenders over the past two decades, according to federal disclosures.

BNSF said in a statement that more than 20 train cars “carrying mixed freight including ethanol and corn syrup” derailed in Raymond on Thursday.

The wreck and resulting blaze forced local authorities to issue evacuation orders for people living within a half-mile of the site. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said a nearby highway was also closed due to the fire.

The local sheriff’s department said in a press release that “no travel is advised to the city of Raymond” as emergency workers attempt to contain the fire.

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