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Despite Huge Victories, Republicans Face Some Obstacles

By Jeffrey Stinson, Stateline.org (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Republicans now dominate statehouses to an extent not seen since the 1920s. But in even the reddest states, that won’t automatically mean lower taxes, spending cuts and a hard line against Medicaid expansion.

In November, the GOP won control of the governor’s office in 31 states and the legislature in 30. That’s up from 29 governorships and 27 legislatures in 2014. In 23 states, Republicans now control both the governor’s office and the legislature.

But the GOP’s election inroads also resulted in more states where one party holds the governor’s office and the other controls the legislature. Before the election, only 11 states had split government; now 20 do. In those states, divided government will prevent either party from enacting its wish list.

Even in states that elected Republican governors and larger GOP legislative majorities, revenue shortfalls may put a damper on the fervor for tax cuts, particularly in states that have already made deep cuts in the last three or four years.

Nearly every state is grappling with how to pay for road and bridge repairs, which might mean hikes in gasoline, sales or other taxes. Many states face greater demands to fund education, with some having court orders to do so. And most states still have big public pension liabilities.

Disputes among various GOP factions — Tea Partiers, libertarians, social-issue activists, and pro-business conservatives — will further complicate matters.

Despite those obstacles, Republicans undoubtedly will use their increased power to advance core GOP interests. In addition to building on legislative majorities in many already-red states, Republicans in the election also flipped control of 11 chambers that had been Democratic, leaving just 11 states where Democrats have legislative control.

The red tide will usher in “a lot more conservative public policy” in the short run, said Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, incoming chairman of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, which was instrumental in the GOP election wave.

Gary Moncrief of Boise State University, co-author of the book Why States Matter, agreed that issues central to the conservative agenda, such as abortion, guns, “right-to-work” laws, welfare limits and school vouchers, will emerge or re-emerge in states where Republicans feel emboldened by big majorities.

Dollars and cents

In deep-red Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012, arguing that it would spark economic growth and increase tax revenues. Now the state is staring at a $279 million budget hole.

Kansas’ budget shortfall is so large Brownback is proposing diverting $41 million in public employee pension contributions and $100 million from highway funds to close it. And the situation could worsen: A three-judge panel last month said the state isn’t spending enough on public schools.

In Ohio, newly re-elected Republican Gov. John Kasich would like to phase out the state’s income tax after he and the Republican legislature approved a 10 percent reduction in rates over three years. But to cut more, Kasich will have to convince an even bigger GOP legislative majority to approve a new oil and gas severance tax. So far, legislators have balked.

Even in the Republican stronghold of Texas, where the GOP bolstered its legislative majority and Greg Abbott won election as the state’s new governor, talk of property tax and business franchise tax cuts is starting to wane despite a $2.6 billion budget surplus and as much as $8 billion in its rainy day fund this year. Oil prices are plunging, and oil underpins much of the state’s economy and revenue.

Instead of tax cuts, Texas might spend its surplus on transportation or schools, especially if the Texas Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that the state’s school finance system isn’t sufficiently funding poorer school districts.

In Georgia, a joint legislative committee told newly re-elected Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and majority GOP lawmakers last month that they must consider a penny sales tax or an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax to cover a transportation funding gap of up to $1.5 billion a year. One group, Georgia Taxpayers United, already has begun campaigning against a gas tax increase, warning of “consequences at the ballot box” for lawmakers who support one.

In Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is proposing the biggest increase in per-pupil spending in 25 years and telling GOP majority lawmakers that they have to discuss raising gasoline or sales taxes to pay for $7 billion in needed highway work over the next 30 years.

Kinder and gentler?

At least one political scientist who studies state government, Thad Kousser at the University of California, San Diego, sees a kinder, gentler GOP face in many states where Republican governors and lawmakers have enjoyed majorities since 2010 and the economy has improved sufficiently to tackle issues other than tax cuts, such as health, education and welfare.

Ohio’s Gov. Kasich, who easily won re-election, is a case in point.

“Let me tell you what conservatism is,” Kasich told The Wall Street Journal. “First and foremost, it is focusing on the economy.” But as Ohio’s economy improves, he said, “we need to make sure we reach out to people in the shadows” with expanded health care, mental health insurance and job training.

Despite widespread GOP opposition to Obamacare in the 2014 election campaign, at least three Republican governors — Herbert, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Matt Mead of Wyoming — have said they’ll seek to expand Medicaid to obtain the millions of federal dollars available through the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama have said they are exploring it.

Charter schools and Common Core

In some states, Republican majorities are likely to extend charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools. Texas Gov.-elect Abbott made charter schools and vouchers a cornerstone of his election campaign. And in West Virginia, one of only eight states without charter schools, there may be a move to introduce them now that Republicans have taken over the legislature for the first time since before the Great Depression.

Although public charter schools often receive bipartisan support, they are a key element of nearly all GOP campaigns. Tax-funded vouchers for students to go to private schools also are backed by many GOP gubernatorial and legislative candidates. However, in some Republican-dominated states, such as Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin, many rural GOP lawmakers have joined with Democrats to oppose taking dollars that could go to public schools to pay for vouchers.

A grassroots movement, often backed by GOP Tea Party groups, to repeal Common Core education standards remains strong in several states that have adopted them, and the standards could face trouble in the Tennessee and West Virginia GOP legislatures.

Newly re-elected Republican governors Paul LePage in Maine and Scott Walker in Wisconsin have come out against them. But other GOP governors who won re-election — Ohio’s Kasich, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada — still stand by them.

Momentum for “right-to-work”

In several states, new Republican majorities are expected to push “right-to-work” laws, which prohibit requiring workers to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment.

In New Mexico, for instance, previously moribund legislation has new life after Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in 60 years. Similar legislation is expected in Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Ohio. And in Missouri, a bolstered GOP legislative majority is expected to again try to make it more difficult for public employee unions to collect dues from members.

In West Virginia, the new GOP majority in both legislative chambers gives Republican foes of the state’s prevailing wage law hope they can repeal it this year. Republicans can override any veto by Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin because it takes only a simple legislative majority to do so.

West Virginia’s law, which has been on the books since the 1930s, requires the state to set a wage for all levels of workers on public construction projects to ensure they all receive uniform pay for the work they do. Wages are set after the state surveys union and nonunion contractors. But foes say the surveys are costly. A similar move to repeal prevailing wage laws may emerge in Michigan and Nevada.

Gun fights

Since 2010, many GOP-majority states have loosened gun restrictions, such as limits on carrying concealed weapons in public. Similar legislation, such as a proposal in Florida to have a designated staff member carry a concealed weapon on school grounds, is expected in 2015.

But in other states, pro-gun Republicans will have to use their new clout to block gun control measures. In Washington state, for example, voters approved expanding background checks to include private gun sales and the transfer of weapons. Washington gun-control advocates now want lawmakers to go further with legislation to keep guns away from children, the mentally ill and domestic abusers. But Republicans now have firm control of the Senate, which makes passage more difficult.

In Nevada, initiative petitions have been filed to require nearly universal background checks, which may force the GOP legislature’s hand. Lawmakers have 40 days to act on the measure. If lawmakers pass it and Sandoval signs it, it becomes law. If not, the initiative goes before voters on the November 2016 ballot.

Restricting abortion

Although abortion wasn’t a big campaign issue and many GOP candidates spoke little about it, pro-choice groups expect it to appear again as it did following big GOP wins in 2010. Most governors oppose abortion rights.

Voters in Colorado and North Dakota defeated ballot measures to give embryos legal rights. But Tennessee voters approved an amendment that says the state’s constitutional privacy provision doesn’t secure or protect a right to abortion. A bill that would impose mandatory ultrasounds before a woman could have an abortion already has been filed in the GOP legislature for the upcoming session.

In Republican-dominated Texas, which has some of the most restrictive abortion policies, legislation has been pre-filed to ban abortions on the basis of fetus gender. And in Missouri, which has a veto-proof GOP legislative majority, a bill will be introduced this month to require regular inspections of abortion clinics in a state that had only one clinic last year.

Welfare and voter ID

At least 18 states saw bills last year to require drug screening or testing of people to receive public assistance, and Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi passed legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More bills can be expected in Texas and other states this year. Twelve states have passed legislation in the last three years. But some have run into resistance. Florida’s law was halted by a district court judge who said it violated constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

Legislation requiring voters to prove citizenship and display identification to vote has increased in recent years with more GOP control in statehouses. Seventeen states have enacted laws since 2011, and most have strict identification requirements. Although courts have thrown out laws in states such as Arkansas and Pennsylvania, legislation is expected to emerge again in New Mexico and other states, where GOP gains give voter ID bills a better chance of passing.

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

Renewable Energy Companies Use New Clout In Statehouses

By Jeffrey Stinson, Stateline.org (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Earlier this year, Ohio became the first state to freeze a scheduled increase in the amount of electricity that must be generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources. The move gave advocates of repealing states’ mandatory green energy standards a rare victory after defeats the last two years.

But the Ohio victory may have been an aberration: Green energy industries have become mainstream businesses with the political clout to match the fossil fuel industry and big electric utilities in many statehouses, and they are using that influence to defend the renewable energy standards in place in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Green industry is creating jobs, providing lease payments to landowners and taxes for local government in many states. Companies like Siemens and GE are highly invested in green energy. And many state lawmakers don’t want to see the economic benefits shrink or disappear.

Wind represents about $118 billion in private investment in the U.S. economy and sustains about 73,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association. About $17.3 billion a year is invested in new wind farms.

The solar industry, meanwhile, employs about 143,000 people and pumps nearly $20 billion a year into the economy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The economic impact of the fossil fuel industry is much larger, but Tom Plant of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University noted that green energy has “become mainstream … and a pretty significant component of economies of the states.”

Nevertheless, Ohio’s action gave hope to repeal advocates like John Eick of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that other states will follow this coming year and slow or modify the mandates, if not repeal them outright.

“It (Ohio) may have laid the groundwork for other states to move in this direction in the coming year,” said Eick, director of the task force on energy, environment and agriculture for ALEC, the free-market think tank of state lawmakers and private industry that drafted model repeal legislation.

State renewable portfolio standards are an outgrowth of the energy deregulation movement of the 1990s and rising concern over the environmental damage caused by greenhouse gases.

The standards require utilities to sell an escalating amount of power generated by renewable or alternative fuels, which can vary from wind and solar to biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric. Many states also require greater energy efficiencies as part of the package.

Ohio’s 2008 law required utilities to gradually phase in the purchase of renewable, alternative and emerging energy technologies until it comprised 25 percent of their electricity output by 2025. It also mandated a 22 percent reduction in consumption by then.

The mandates are now frozen until 2017 while a legislative commission studies whether the standards contribute to rising electricity rates and should be altered.

How much electricity must come from renewable sources varies across the states. California, for instance, requires 25 percent by 2017 and 33 percent by 2020, according to a database kept by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy. Connecticut requires 27 percent by 2020.

In addition to states with mandatory standards, seven — Alaska, Indiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia — have voluntary goals.

Combined with federal and state green energy tax breaks, state renewable portfolios have been instrumental in building the renewable sector. They “drive demand,” said Susan Sloan, vice president for state policy at the American Wind Energy Association.

Technological advancement is making green energy more economically competitive compared to fossil fuel, especially coal.

Although debate rages on how much the mandates cost ratepayers, a survey in May by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory calculated that from 2010-2012 they drove up rates by 0.9 percent.

Electricity generated by wind power costs $28-$32 a megawatt hour, Colorado State’s Plant said, while natural gas is about $45 a megawatt hour and coal generation is $48-$50 per megawatt hour.

Green energy will get another boost from new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules that will force old coal-fired plants to cut their carbon emissions by 30 percent. That will make coal generation even more costly, said Steve Kalland, executive director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

Battles over the portfolios heated up two years ago after ALEC drafted model legislation to roll back or repeal them because, Eick said, “government entities shouldn’t distort the energy markets with mandated quotas favoring one source of power over another.”

Eick’s task force, which drafted the legislation, now comprises 130 state legislators from across the country and about 50 companies, including fossil fuel producers and investor-owned utilities.

Although the task force has no renewable energy companies as members, Eick said, ALEC isn’t anti-green energy. The group doesn’t favor any one source of energy, he said. Nor is it opposed to voluntary renewable goals. But, he said, the markets shouldn’t be distorted, and electric customers shouldn’t have affordability and reliability put at risk by government intervention.

Twenty-six bills to roll back or repeal the mandates were introduced in 2013, after Republicans won a large number of legislative seats in the 2012 election, according to tracking by Colorado State’s Center for the New Energy Economy. None passed. Just 14 were introduced this year. Only Ohio rolled back in a significant way.

Ohio’s freeze, approved by the Republican legislature, was signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in June after he first threatened to veto a rollback.

In addition to ALEC, the utility First Energy and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce pushed for the rollback. On the other side, the Ohio Manufacturers Association and companies like Whirlpool and Honeywell opposed the rollback. Wind energy accounts for about 5,000 jobs in the state, the Environmental Defense Fund said.

Wind, solar and other alternative sources are increasingly popular with the public compared to fossil fuels, polls indicate. And many companies want to demonstrate they’re in favor of environmentally friendly policies.

If there’s any state that could follow Ohio’s lead this coming year, Eick said, it is Kansas, where standards mandate 20 percent renewables by 2020.

Efforts to first repeal and then phase out the standards were defeated in the House this year after winning overwhelming Senate approval. The repeal’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Dennis Hedke, said it’s too early to say whether he will push again.

But the climate would appear ripe, especially now that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback says he supports phasing out the standards after previously remaining silent on the issue.

Kansas is home to energy giant Koch Industries, which backs ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, whose state chapter favors repeal. The state is the nation’s 10th biggest producer of oil and home to the Hugoton natural gas fields. And, according to the Energy Information Administration, 61 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal plants.

However, wind energy has a foothold in the state and accounts for about 19 percent of electricity generation. The industry has made an $8 billion capital investment in the state, accounting for some 13,000 jobs, said Karin Brownlee, spokesperson for Kansans for Wind Energy. Siemens manufactures housing for its wind turbines there.

Wind has become “a big cash crop” for Kansas farmers, she said, with wind farms providing about $16 million a year in lease payments to landowners. Local government receives about $10 million a year in lieu of tax payments from them, which is good revenue for rural counties.

Brownlee, a former Republican state senator and former ALEC member, said she doesn’t know whether another repeal effort will erupt when lawmakers convene in January. But, she said, the industry now is a “huge” part of the Kansas economy and is prepared with the facts for any fight.

Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr.com

Cyberattacks On State Databases Escalate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State governments are facing a daily barrage of cyberattacks from increasingly sophisticated computer hackers. The hackers’ rapidly changing tactics threaten the exposure of personal information of millions of people and can cost millions of dollars to fix.
“We see attacks on Texas’ system to the tune of millions a month,” said Karen Robinson, Texas’ state chief information officer.
Although breaches of Texas state computers are rare, Robinson said, the risks are high. They can result in the theft of Social Security numbers, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and even personal and business financial information.
All states face a growing number of wide-ranging, quickly evolving attacks, according to a report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.
Despite the threat, the report found, state legislators often don’t give their technology and security officials enough money to fight it, and states struggle to retain technologically savvy cybersecurity personnel.
The report said the dangers of insufficient cybersecurity are high, not only for people citizens whose personal information can be compromised, but also for taxpayers and the public’s trust in government.
“These incidents have cost states millions of dollars in clean-up costs, as well as a loss of both revenues and public trust,” the report said. “The problem is not likely to go away any time soon, as cybercriminals continue to be drawn to the wealth of data residing in each state.”
State computers hold a treasure trove of personal information. Motor vehicle agencies have dates of birth and driver’s license numbers. Health agencies have people’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers. Tax records show what banks people and businesses have accounts with. States also have credit card numbers from people who have made payments to state agencies.
“You can get pretty much everything on someone out of state computers,” said Srini Subramanian, a state cybersecurity specialist with Deloitte who co-authored the report. “It makes them a very attractive target to cybercriminals.”

Recent breaches point up the dangers and the costs:
Montana notified 1.3 million people in June that their personal data was possibly exposed to hackers in a breach of state Department of Public Health and Human Services computers a year earlier. The state said there was no evidence that personal information was stolen, but offered free credit monitoring and insurance for a year to those they notified.

Washington state’s court system was hacked in February, exposing up to 160,000 Social Security numbers and a million driver’s license numbers. The courts’ administration office said some numbers in its computers had definitely been accessed.

California’s Department of Technology reported 7,345 data breaches at state departments and agencies from the beginning of 2013 through early November last year, KNTV television reported. The state had to notify 23,379 people that their personal information may have been compromised, and spent at least $5 million to fix the breaches.
Although not every state database has been badly breached, the threat is a daily one. Six out of 10 of the state chief information and security officers from 49 states pointed to greater sophistication in the attacks, the report said. That’s an increase from two years ago, when a similar report found that roughly half saw more sophisticated tactics.

“Everybody is getting hit daily,” said Michael Cockrill, chief information officer for Washington state.
Cockrill, who recently came to his new job from the private sector, said he’s seen reports that as many as 40 percent of cyberattacks launched in the U.S. originate from inside his state.
Thieves want the personal information stored by states because it helps enable identity theft that opens greater doors of financial opportunity, the information officers said. That’s more valuable than just credit card information, which can be damaging enough.
“Health records are valuable because they have so much information,” Cockrill said of the dates of birth and Social Security numbers they can contain. “Health records are worth $10 on the black market, credit cards a dollar.”

Although the report’s survey said the security officials’ biggest fear is the placement of malicious software code in state computers, other threats are on the rise that can compromise personal information.
Eight out 10 of the officers predict an increase in “phishing” and “pharming” for personal or business information, and 72 percent predict more “social engineering” of people — manipulating them into divulging personal information or tricking them into schemes to defraud them.
Phishing attacks usually involve fraudulent email messages that guide victims to fake websites that look legitimate, but which are designed to obtain personal information such as passwords to their financial accounts.
Pharming redirects people from legitimate websites that have been tampered with to other sites that are fake.
Also on the rise is “hacktivism,” the hacking into government computers to make social statements, cause mayhem or provide platforms for activist groups to gain exposure.

“They aren’t after financial gains,” Deloitte’s Subramanian said. “They want to make a statement. And what’s a better place to make a statement than on a state government site.”
One example, he said, is Ferguson, Mo., where police computers and those of police unions were attacked by activists seeking the identity of the officer involved in the racially charged shooting this summer that set off nights of civil unrest.
Only 24.5 percent of the information and security officers said they were “very confident” they could protect against cyberthreats, the report found. That’s little different from two years ago, when 24 percent said the same thing.
In contrast, 60 percent of officials in the state departments and agencies that the information technology officers serve say they are very confident in their states’ abilities to protect them.
That disconnection between the information technology people on the front lines and other state officials helps explain why states aren’t putting as much money into cybersecurity as they should, Subramanian said.

About half the states allocate only 1 percent to 2 percent of their information technology budgets to security, the report said. The federal government, by contrast, allocates about 11 percent, Cockrill said.
States rely in large part on outside security software companies to help protect and police their computer systems. And despite their increased sophistication in surveillance, protection and response, most state officers said they are only somewhat confident in their cybersecurity.
States also have trouble getting and hanging onto trained cybersecurity personnel.
Fifty-nine percent of the officers surveyed for the report said they are short on trained people. That’s up from the 46 percent who said so two years ago.
The officers say states simply cannot pay as much as the private sector. That’s especially true in high-tech Washington state.
“We’ve been hiring people from Eastern Europe to provide security,” Cockrill said. “We’re a training ground for the private sector. They come, they get trained and get paid twice as much or more in the private sector.”

To recruit new security analysts, Cockrill is turning to military veterans. With some grant money, he’s seeking to give them computer skills to supplement the security and threat analysis experience they have from their military service. To retain them, he said, he’ll have to appeal to their sense of duty, because he can’t pay salaries nearly as high as what is available in the private sector.

AFP Photo/Greg Wood

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Energy Boom Brings New Focus On Rail, Pipeline Safety

By Jeffrey Stinson, Stateline.org

WASHINGTON — The sharp increase in U.S. oil production and its promise of energy independence is coming with a disastrous byproduct: spills that threaten lives, communities, and the environment.

In the past 18 months, about 1.2 million gallons of crude oil produced in the United States or Canada has been spilled from train cars and pipelines in at least seven states, sparking explosions, fires, or the evacuation of homes or offices in four instances.

Nobody has to tell the residents of Lynchburg, Va., about the danger of the millions of gallons of crude oil rolling along rail lines or through pipelines every day. On April 30, more than a dozen train cars filled with crude oil derailed near Lynchburg’s downtown, causing a fire that forced hundreds of people in a 20-block area to evacuate. Nobody was injured, but thousands of gallons of oil spilled into the James River.

In response to the growing problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation last week issued proposed rules calling for upgraded railroad cars, better braking systems, and tighter speed controls.
The federal action followed stepped-up efforts by several states to try to prevent spills and respond to disasters:

The California legislature in June approved a new 6.5-cent fee on every barrel on crude oil carried by rail and some pipelines through the state. The state will use the money, estimated to bring in $11 million in the first full year, to expand its coastal spill prevention and response program to inland streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. It’s also beefing up its rail safety inspection program.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, signed legislation in May to implement stricter oversight of railroad companies, require more rail inspections, and provide for better emergency response training and preparedness. To pay for it, Minnesota this year will collect $6.4 million in fees from railroads and pipeline companies.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, signed legislation in July that authorizes the state to impose stricter preparation and response requirements on pipelines than federal law requires. The state Public Utility Commission also was given authority to inspect interstate pipelines to provide more frequent checks than federal officials give.

Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber last week released a study of oil moving through his state that calls for more state rail inspectors, more money for training, and improved cooperation with railroads. In June, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, ordered a similar review of risks, regulations, and preparedness in his state. In January, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo also issued a similar order and dispatched inspectors to rail yards to look for defects on cars that could cause derailments.

Nearly all the action in the states was prompted by disasters governors and lawmakers saw in other states or across the border in Canada. Their worst fear is what happened in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed last July when an unattended 74-car train derailed. The spilled crude caught fire, then several cars exploded and about half the downtown was destroyed.

“I want to know how much oil will be shipped through my state and how we can be assured the kind of tragedy that happened in Quebec won’t devastate families in our communities,” Inslee said in June in ordering the study in Washington.

Matt Swenson, Dayton’s press secretary, said Minnesotans only needed to look at neighboring North Dakota to see what could happen: Last December, a train carrying grain derailed in front of a mile-long train carrying crude oil near Casselton, not far from the Minnesota border. Twenty cars spilled oil, some exploded. Fire forced evacuation of the town, but nobody was injured.

Every day, seven similar oil trains with about 110 cars carrying about 3.3 million gallons of crude travel through Minnesota, the state said. Other states are witnessing similar traffic, and it’s on the rise.

About 264 million gallons of crude oil were shipped by rail through California last year, said Alexia Retallack in the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. That’s 46.2 million gallons more than in 2012.

More crude oil is on the move across states as production in North America booms from the fracking of Bakken oil deposits underlying North Dakota, Montana, and Canada’s Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces, and from the tar sands of Alberta.

Production in the United States alone will be 8.5 million barrels a day this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. That’s estimated to grow to 9.3 million barrels daily next year. And there aren’t enough pipelines to get the crude to the nation’s 115 refineries to be turned into gasoline and other products.

Republican North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in June that pipeline capacity in his state needs to double to about 1.4 million barrels a day by 2016 to carry all the crude produced there. Currently, the state is producing about 220,000 barrels a day more than pipes can carry.

Railroads are picking up the slack, even though the Congressional Research Service said in a May report that it can cost from $5 to $10 more a barrel than pipeline delivery. The number of carloads of crude oil, each carrying about 30,000 gallons, that ended up inside the United States rose to 435,560 last year, the Association of American Railroads says. That’s up from about 30,000 in 2010.

In a recent analysis of data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, the McClatchy Washington Bureau found that 1.15 million gallons of crude oil spilled from rail cars in the United States last year. That’s more than in all the years combined since the data was first collected nearly four decades ago.

The worst accident was in November in Aliceville, Ala., where 748,800 gallons spilled from a 90-car train after 12 cars derailed and three exploded. Nobody was injured.

Although widely considered safer than rail shipment of crude, pipelines do spill. A split in a pipeline in March 2013 dumped as much as 5,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil into a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark.

Photo: Rickz via Flickr

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