Lac-Megantic train disaster – Harper government ignoring warnings on oil transport

by Keith Stewart

July 9, 2013

Scenes of devastation at the site of train derailment and fire that killed at least 5 people after a train derailed and exploded early July.6, 2013, in Lac-Megantic in eastern Quebec, Canada. Another 40 other people are reported missing.

Credit: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Crossposted from Greenpeace Canada

As the tragedy in the Quebec community of Lac Megantic continues to unfold, our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by this horrific incident the families and friends of the victims and the many still missing. The train derailment and resulting explosion and fire was a catastrophic event that has torn the heart out of an entire town and left many searching for answers.

While many details are not yet known what we do know is that the Federal government has ignored repeated safety warnings from its own advisors and has not been doing its job when it comes to protecting our communities and the environment from the known risks of moving oil by rail.

The Federal governments own safety officials told them nine yearsagothat80 percent of the rail tanker fleet in Canada is unsafefor carrying oil. The general type of rail car used to move oil in Canada was flagged by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as having a high incidence of tank failures during accidents and by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board as prone to release product at derailment and impact.

Despite these warnings the Harper government has done nothing to fix the problem. Instead they are allowing oil companies to dramatically expand the amount of crude going through the hearts of our communities and simply ignored the ongoing recommendations.

Whether its pipelines or rail, we have agrowing safety problem in this country as the Federal government continues to put oil profits ahead of public safety.

The Lac Megantic tragedy shows the dangers of transporting hydrocarbons by rail but we know, all too well, that the answer isnt more pipelines. The history of pipeline spills fromArkansasandKalamazootoLittle BuffaloandZama Cityshows that pipelines create their own disasters.Alberta averages more than 2 oil spills a day.

The real solution to reducing the risk to the public from oil disasters is in transitioning away from oil; not building new, unneeded infrastructure; and in ensuring that the fossil fuel transportation system we do have is as safe as possible. The federal government is not doing that now, and their inaction is putting all our communities at risk.

A first and important step in improving the safety of our current system would be an immediate ban on shipping oil in older, type 111A tanker cars.

The second step should be a comprehensive, independent safety review of all hydrocarbon transportation pipelines, rail and truck to show where the holes are and propose solution on how we can fix them.

Tell Harper its time we need to put people ahead of oil company profits. The safety of our communities and our environment cant wait.

*If you would like to help the victims of the Lac Megantic tragedy, relief efforts are being coordinated by the Canadian Red Cross. To make a donation please go to:

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.