Maine’s crude-by-rail shipments resume at a trickle in March

Posted May 15, 2014, at 4:08 p.m.

BOWDOINHAM, Maine — Crude-by-rail shipments through Maine resumed in March after slowing to a halt following the deadly train accident last summer in Lac-Megantic, a small town just across the border in Quebec, according to state records.

Pan Am Railways reported carrying 15,545 barrels through the state in March, the first trainborne oil shipments since October, according to figures from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. No other railway operators reported any crude shipments.

Maine had been among the largest oil exporting states in the nation before the Lac-Megantic incident, shipping crude from North America’s interior fields mainly to the 300,000-barrel-per-day Irving oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. But not a single barrel had moved along its tracks since the end of October.

After the Quebec crash, Maine regulators said they had no plans to halt oil-by-rail shipments through the state despite protests by environmental groups, but Pan Am told Reuters demand had dried up. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad, the other major shipper of oil through the state, operated the train that crashed in Quebec and subsequently went bankrupt.

Other rail lines, including Canadian National Railways, also service the Irving refinery but take a more northerly route through Canada, bypassing Maine. Transport Canada collects data on crude movements through the provinces, but tallies are considered “commercially sensitive” and kept confidential by the Canada Transportation Act.

A Department of Transportation emergency order this month beefed up reporting requirements for carriers shipping large quantities of crude from the Bakken fields of interior North America, a response to public concerns as the number of oil trains moving across the continent has surged.

 

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