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LETTER: Who knew what when in N.D.?

FARGO — When the first quart of freshly fracked Bakken crude was drawn from the Earth a few years back, a white-coated chemist swished the sample around the beaker, took a sniff and said to his associate; “I’d put your cigarette out, if I were you.”

Oh, well. They crossed their fingers and proceeded to ship millions of barrels of the potent oil through pipelines and in substandard rail cars.

Then, on July 6, 2013, a runaway 74-car train carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken reserve derailed and incinerated a good portion of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, along with 47 people. Some bodies likely were vaporized.

What was the reaction from North Dakota regulators, politicians and the press? Meh. Another country, too far away, I guess.

But when a mushroom cloud appeared on the horizon six months later outside of Casselton, N.D., the usual suspects were crawling over each other to voice their concern, and to launch the requisite investigations and studies to determine the volatility of our sweet crude.

Here’s a thought. Fill up a Mason jar with the stuff, and drop a match in it. If the front of your body is char-broiled, the liquid is dangerous.

Was anyone in any state or province warned of what was passing through their territory? The mayor of Casselton was certainly surprised.

Did past and current members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission and Industrial Commission — including Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a former PSC commissioner, as well as current PSC commissioners Brian Kalk, Julie Fedorchak and Randy Christmann and Industrial Commission members Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring — know about the explosive nature of Bakken crude before people died?

How about legislators who strutted around the oil patch in their fancy yellow plastic hats?

And, if not, why didn’t they know?