Lac-Mégantic tragedy moves Mainer to action

People hailing from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts hold sketches of the faces of the 47 people who died last July after a rail car containing heavy crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic. The peaceful protest for clean energy was held in Bretton Woods, N.H., on Sunday. (De Busk Photo) NW dd29 Photo memorial for victims in LM This bus, which runs on a vegetable-based gasoline, served a memorial for the 47 people who died in Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013. (De Busk Photo)

People hailing from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts hold sketches of the faces of the 47 people who died last July after a rail car containing heavy crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic. The peaceful protest for clean energy was held in Bretton Woods, N.H., on Sunday. (De Busk Photo)
 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

BRETTON WOODS, N.H. — Read Brugger had some powerful words to say in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Lac-Mégantic.

“Je me souviens. I remember. Nous nous souvenons. We remember,” he said.

“We remember 47 lives lost at Lac-Mégantic. We remember a lake on fire and a river running black. We remember a town that has had its heart cut out,” Brugger said.

The heavy-crude-related explosion that killed 47 people and wiped out the center of a quaint town in Quebec on July 6, 2013, struck a chord for Brugger. Not only did he write a speech to mourn those who died as a result of the explosion, but he has moved forward with a campaign to halt the transportation of fracked Bakken crude via railroad. More precisely, as he put it, citizens should demand the new owners of the railway stop hauling the explosive crude “in unsafe DOT 111 tanker cars.”

On Sunday, the resident of Freedom, Maine, hopped on a bus from Bridgton, and rode to a rally with others involved in Tar Sands Free Northeast.

Brugger is a member of 350 Maine, which is part of the Tar Sands Free Northeast coalition. The Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club chartered the bus to accommodate people wanting to attend the peaceful protest held in Bretton Woods, N.H., on Sunday.

People hailing from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts hold sketches of the faces of the 47 people who died last July after a rail car containing heavy crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic. The peaceful protest for clean energy was held in Bretton Woods, N.H., on Sunday. (De Busk Photo) NW dd29 Photo memorial for victims in LM This bus, which runs on a vegetable-based gasoline, served a memorial for the 47 people who died in Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013. (De Busk Photo)

This bus, which runs on a vegetable-based gasoline, served a memorial for the 47 people who died in Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013. (De Busk Photo)

The rally was held in the scenic pull-off, a public space, while the New England governors met — sans Gov. Paul LePage — with the provincial premiers of Eastern Canada inside the privately-owned Omni Mountain Washington Hotel.

As five U.S. governors and seven Canadian premiers gathered for the 38th annual conference, approximately 80 people made their appeal for clean energy policies.

Sunday’s rally started with a moment of silence for the victims and families in Lac-Mégantic.

“We remember that they told us that Lac-Mégantic was a perfect storm of mishaps, not likely to ever be repeated,” Brugger said.

“But, we know the truth — it was the inevitable result of corporate greed and government deregulation,” Brugger said.

“And the bomb trains keep derailing and our waters still burn,” he said.

“In 2013, the railroad shipped 4.2 million barrels of crude through Maine to the Irving Refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. About half traveled on Pan Am Railways through Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire before crossing Maine. The rest entered Maine from Quebec on the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA),” he said.

“Today, very little crude-by-rail is shipped through New England,” he continued, adding there is a concerning change on the horizon.

“However the new owners of MMA, renamed the Central Maine and Quebec Railway, have announced that they hope to resume moving unit oil trains through Maine in 2015,” Brugger said.

Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has declared the Bakken crude shipped via rail is “an imminent hazard,” he said.

Yet, the NTSB has made no action to ban the practice. Instead, the board has left that responsibility in the hands of the company owners — the industry, according to Brugger.

“We call on the assembled governors and premiers to live up to their responsibilities to protect the health and welfare of the people and natural resources of New England and Atlantic Canada. They must take up our call to immediately ban the use of DOT 111’s to transport crude oil and other hazardous liquids,” he said.

Also, Brugger asked Mainers to contact Gov. LePage about their opposition to Central Maine and Quebec Railway’s plans to restart shipments of crude through their neighborhoods and valued recreational areas.

In related news, according to the Toronto Sun, the Quebec government announced that it will pay $60 million to compensate family members of the victims in the Lac-Mégantic accident.

On Sunday, the charter bus that Brugger and 21 others rode came to a complete halt before crossing several still-active railroad tracks.

He said he is not opposed to responsible use of the railways.

“We continue to believe that rail is an important component of a fossil free, sustainable economy. Crude-by-rail is anti-ethical to that vision. We must work together to accomplish a just transition to local resilient economies,” Brugger said.

“In doing this we will remember Lac-Mégantic,” he said.

 

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