March 20, 2019
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Oil-by-train shipments resume in Maine after long hiatus

MATHIEU BELANGER | REUTERS
MATHIEU BELANGER | REUTERS
A railway track is seen near a factory in Lac-Megantic July 14, 2013.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Oil trains are once again rolling through Maine after slowing to a near halt following the deadly train accident almost two years ago in Lac-Megantic, a small town just across the border in Quebec, according to state records.

Pan Am Railways reported carrying 37,128 barrels through the state in February, the first train-borne oil shipments since March of 2014, according to the most recent figures from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

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.

Shipments of oil by rail through Maine dropped off from a peak of 5.2 million barrels in 2012, the year before the Quebec crash, to just 15,545 barrels in 2014.

After the accident in July 2013, Maine regulators said they had no plans to halt oil-by-rail shipments through the state despite protests by environmental groups, but Pan Am, one of two shippers in Maine, told Reuters demand had dried up.

A Pan Am official was not immediately available to comment on Thursday.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad, which operated the train that crashed in Quebec, subsequently went bankrupt. The railroad’s new owner, Central Maine and Quebec Railway, has yet to ship any crude through Maine, according to filings.

Other rail lines, including Canadian National Railways, also service the Irving refinery, a top gasoline supplier to New England, 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.

A boom in shipments of oil by rail across the continent has resulted in a spate of fiery accidents and increased focus on safety measures. In February, a 109-car delivery of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken energy patch derailed in West Virginia and exploded in a fireball, setting at least nine cars ablaze.

 



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