CP and Lac-Mégantic derailment cleanup costs

Fallout from the tragic Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway's (MMA) crude-oil train derailment in Quebec on July 6 likely will continue for some time, as Canadian and U.S. governments, court systems, railroads, businesses and the people personally impacted  by the event continue to sort out the consequences.

Among the latest developments is the Quebec government's decision last week to add Canadian Pacific to the list of companies that provincial officials believe are responsible for millions of dollars in cleanup costs associated with the deadly accident in Lac-Mégantic, which caused about 1.5 million gallons of crude oil to spill from damaged tank cars.

CP was the main contractor responsible for the train that was transporting the crude from North Dakota to a New Brunswick refinery. Near Lac-Mégantic, CP interchanged with MMA, which controlled the train when the derailment occurred.

CP is appealing the province's decision, arguing that as a "matter of fact, and law," the Class I is not responsible for the cleanup, according to CP Spokesman Ed Greenberg.

The question of whether CP should be held partly responsible for the cleanup costs is the subject of this week's poll question on ProgressiveRailroading.com. Please let us know what you think by answering the poll question or by leaving a comment in response to my blog post.

1 Reply

  • Seems to me like CP's responsibility depends in part on its relationship with MM&A on this traffic. Interchange partner, Haulage partner or some other arrangements and the terms of whatever the governing agreement is. Additionally, I think there is some responsibility of the originating carrier (CP in this case) to take reasonable steps to ensure the cargo is safe and as billed.

    Another aspect to Lac Megantic that I have not seen discussed is hand brakes. Failure to apply enough of them seems to be one of the root causes. Depending on the equipment and type, they can be hard to reach and apply. This is especially true where the ballast bed has been built up and employees have a long way to go just to reach the stirrup to board the car. In an age of solar / electrically operated ballast car doors maybe it's time to see if something similar could be done with hand brakes or some other way(s) to make them more user friendly. Until / unless we do and as long as human beings run our trains we'll continue to have short cuts and violations.

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