OTTAWA Aug 6 (Reuters) – The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic
(MMA) railway company will stop transporting oil after a runaway
oil tanker train derailed and exploded in a small Quebec town
last month, killing 47 people, MMA Chairman Ed Burkhardt said in
a newspaper interview.
“We don’t plan to continue with oil transportation. That traffic is going to go other ways, not over our lines,”
Burkhardt is quoted as saying in the Montreal Gazette on Monday.
MMA owns 510 miles (820 kilometers) of track in Maine,
Vermont and Quebec, according to its website.
When the train crashed on July 6 in Lac-Megantic, MMA was
hauling about 50,000 barrels of crude oil that originated in the
Bakken fields of North Dakota and was destined to a refinery in
New Brunswick, on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Alternatives to get crude to New Brunswick might include
more imports, using other rail lines or tankers from the Gulf of
Mexico. TransCanada Corp announced plans last week for
a pipeline from Alberta in western Canada to the Atlantic, but
that would not be in full service until 2018.
Burkhardt said MMA plans to resume rail service soon on the
undamaged tracks that run near Lac-Megantic, and that it would
be transporting items like paper, wood, pulp, logs and
Burkhardt’s office and other MMA officials did not respond
to phone calls and emails requesting a comment.
With the end of the oil-transport, MMA’s financial stresses
could worsen. In numerous media interviews in the past weeks,
Burkhardt has allowed for the possibility his company could go
bankrupt as operations were cut and legal and cleanup costs
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Tuesday that
Burkhardt had jumped at the opportunity in 2012 to start hauling
oil after a decade of financial troubles and struggles with his
core forestry products customers. Within a year, he was turning
a profit due to the oil transport business, the Globe reported.
Investigators into the Lac-Megantic tragedy have said it was
too early to determine what caused the crash, North America’s
worst rail disaster in two decades. Two big questions are
whether the lone engineer applied sufficient hand brakes when he
parked the train for the night and why the fuel in the rail cars
was so volatile, creating huge explosions and a deadly wall of
fire after derailing.