HERMON — Environmental activists demanded a halt to all Maine oil tanker traffic until state rail safety improves during a protest Monday at a freight hauler that owns the runaway train that destroyed much of a Quebec town.
Saying that a surge in tankers on state rails was overwhelming an already stressed railroad infrastructure, the dozen protesters at Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. also sought an independent federal review of state rail track conditions and use.
“What we are experiencing is a gold rush in oil in Maine,” said Nancy Galland, a member of 350 Maine, during a noon press conference. “It’s corporate greed. They are looking at making as much profit as they can right now, but they [state railroad tracks] were never meant to be used like this.”
Approximately 15 representatives of 350 Maine and Maine Earth First spoke in support of the victims of the train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a Canadian town a few miles from the Maine border. No representatives from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the train’s owner, were present.
A company-employed security guard politely stopped media from approaching the corporate offices on Iron Road after the press conference.
The 73-car train was carrying crude oil from North Dakota to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, according to Reuters. The train had been parked without a driver outside the Quebec town when it began rolling downhill early Saturday. Four tanker cars on the runaway train caught fire and exploded after derailing. At least five people died and 40 were missing.
Maine Department of Transportation officials said Monday that they have no plans to review how crude oil is shipped through Maine. According to a Reuters report, nearly 30,000 barrels per day of crude crossed through Maine in March, up from under 2,000 barrels per day a year earlier, as part of a surge in oil by rail transit caused by the U.S. shale boom. The growth in oil shipments through Maine has caused protests among environmental groups in the state.