It’s been just over a year since a train carrying crude oil derailed in in Lac-Megantic, Quebec leaving 47 people dead.
Local officials in Maine are commending a new proposed set of regulations aimed at preventing a disaster like that from happening here in Maine.
Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation rolled out new proposals they hope will make transporting crude oil by rail safer.
Under the new proposals, trains carrying hazardous materials would have to avoid heavily populated areas whenever possible and the speed of those trains would be reduced. The DOT would also phase out or modify the older trains in their fleet that carry materials like crude oil. The new proposals are being applauded by Maine’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C.
“Mainers who live near rail lines should not have to hold their breath every time a train runs through or near their town. these rules will make considerable enhancements to rail safety and also help give people more peace-of-mind when it comes to living near rail lines,” said Senator Angus King in a statement.
Officials in communities where these trains are commonplace are also applauding the new proposals. Oakland town manager Peter Nielsen recently took a trip to Lac-Megantic and saw the devastation there first-hand.
“We were witnessing the long trains full prior to Lac-Megantic and so there would be 80 of those black tank cars rolling through the two major intersections,” Nielsen said. “Actually there are three intersections in oakland that people were waiting for and that’s what prompted the town council to say ‘you know what are the safety precautions in place for this?'”
Currently, there are 59 communities in Maine that have railroad traffic. Not all of them carry oil but many of them do. In Oakland, trains carrying oil run right through the downtown area.
“So it seems as though for those reasons everybody who uses the product still has the right to the safe transportation of that product. Especially if its going right through town,” Nielsen said.
Next up, the proposals will go through a 60 day comment period then formal rule making.
“So we don’t need to relive this horror show anymore times before we realize that there’s an issue here that needs to be dealt with. So all of this effort is proactive. So that we don’t have to relive the painful lesson that our friends in canada learned back last July,” Nielsen said.