Lac-Mégantic isn’t good for pipelines—it’s bad for oil, period

Andrew Leach on the industry-wide impact of the tragedy

by Andrew Leach

(Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

This article was first published in Canadian Business:

The scale and scope of the terrible tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que., is only beginning to sink in, and my thoughts are certainly with the victims and their families.

In the midst of shock and sadness, already there are those who have concluded this is an advantage for the pipeline industry in the oil debate. An op-ed by Diana Furchtgott-Roth in The Globe and Mail was quick to conclude that “after Saturday’s tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que., it is time to speed up the approval of new pipeline construction in North America…. If this oil shipment had been carried through pipelines, instead of rail, families in Lac-Mégantic would not be grieving for lost loved ones today, and oil would not be polluting Lac-Mégantic and the Chaudière River.” Queen’s Professor Warren Mabee was quoted in the Toronto Starsaying that “this could be a way for the pipeline lobby to emphasize a point that while they’ve had some problems, there’s not been this level of death and this level of impact.

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I don’t agree. I think that this tragedy will have an industry-wide, negative impact. In reading these quotes and reactions, I see strong parallels to others in and around the oilsands industry after the BP spill. A couple of weeks after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, then Environment Minister Jim Prentice stated that “the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shows that Canada’s oilsands are less risky than offshore drilling.” Dina Cover of TD Bank was sure we would see an economic boom from new oilsands investment given “the notion that oilsands are a safer method of oil production (than Gulf Coast offshore).” And Eric Lam at the Financial Post offered a similar thought: “on-shore operations such as Canada’s oilsands may ultimately come out as winners.”

In the wake of the BP disaster, Andy Revkin wrote that “the oil disaster doesn’t belong to BP, or to President Obama or his predecessor; we all own it.” In my view, that applies to Lac-Mégantic as well as to BP. We all own this disaster, but it will be owned in large share by all those who make their living producing and transporting oil.

The BP spill led to more regulation (although not as much new in the U.S. as some would like) and less investment in the U.S. offshore oil industry than would have otherwise been the case, and these changes were likely compensated for with increased investment elsewhere. My sense, however, is that these effects have been trumped by the fallout from the spill on the oil and gas industry as a whole. First, the spill seems to have led to decreased trust in the oil and gas industry generally, and foreign companies specifically in the eyes of the U.S. public. This has likely hampered TransCanada’s efforts to build Keystone XL. The spill also highlighted awareness of the risks associated with oil and gas production—sure, oilsands might have appeared relatively better as a result, but in absolute terms, they were easily portrayed as yet another example of the high costs and high risks associated with oil extraction. Finally, the investigation into the spill highlighted many of the shortcomings with respect to regulatory oversight of the industry.

The fallout from the Lac-Mégantic tragedy will depend on what we learn about the ultimate causes and, as Paul Wells wrote here, that’s a long way off. I expect, however, that there will be three first-order effects that will be very similar to those that followed the BP spill: 1) increased public consciousness of the dangers inherent in transporting oil and oil products and more aversion to having these products moved nearby; 2) increased calls for alternatives to oil rather than alternative means of transporting oil; and 3) decreased trust in regulators’ and firms’ abilities to sufficiently mitigate risks from transporting oil. If you’re in the oil transportation business, these are negative impacts, whether you move oil by rail or by pipeline.

I doubt there are many people in the oil sands industry today who feel that they are better off as a result of the BP spill, and I expect that the pipeline industry will come to feel the same way about Lac-Mégantic in short order.

Andrew Leach is an energy and environmental economist at the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_leach.




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Lac-Mégantic isn’t good for pipelines—it’s bad for oil, period

  1. That was quick.

    • Yes, especially given that the company that owns the train is claiming it was sabotaged.

      • The Chairman of the company claimed he suspected sabotage, and has since contradicted that statement.

        Regardless, I fail to see what you point is.

        • Has he now contradicted his statement that a Canadian firefighter is responsible?

          • I don’t know, but the claim that a firefighter is to blame certainly contradicts a claim of sabotage, unless he’s claiming that a firefighter deliberately sent the train down the hill.

            And I still don’t know what your original point was.

          • My point is that it is pretty quick to make a statement saying this is accident is good or bad for oil. As I said to Fmp Sportsguy, trains in Canada go through the centre of every Canadian town and city loaded with highly flammable products and other products that are deadly to human beings. To single out oil as being somehow more risky than others isn’t accurate. If the accident were “no accident” but rather caused by malice or bad judgment by ONE INDIVIDUAL, it is really not appropriate to start making any predictions on what this will do to one industry. There was several incidences of sabotage pipelines in Northern BC. They weren’t treated the same as other pipeline spills with regard to response from the public. It wasn’t a failure by the oil company or govt to properly oversee the stability of the equipment but rather a deliberate human action that led to the spill. People react differently. It is like pilot error in a plane crash v. a malfunction of the plane. There is a different reaction with public trust regarding flying on those planes in the future.

          • Uh, there were no “spills” involved with the pipeline bombings in Northern BC.

            ” It is like pilot error in a plane crash v. a malfunction of the plane.
            There is a different reaction with public trust regarding flying on
            those planes in the future.”

            There is? People react differently when a pilot makes a mistake that causes a plane to crash than when a mechanic or engineer makes a mistake that causes a plane to crash?
            I’m not familiar with that “fact”.

          • I apologize that I was incorrect with regard to pipeline sabotage resulting in spills. I never said it was a fact but in my opinion that people behave differently if they think a company is guilty of doing poor maintenance on a plane v. one pilot making an error.

          • Ah, I see…they were sour gas pipelines…so there were “leaks” not “spills”…good one, lenny!

          • I don’t believe there were “leaks” either.

          • Is that a “I don’t believe the reports that there were leaks” or “I didn’t do research so I don’t think there were leaks” because I did do some research and there were some leaks although they were reported to be small.

          • As in, “I don’t recall any leaks being reported”.

            So, there were some leaks the required no clean up and that caused the kind of environmental damage that leaving an unlit barbeque on causes?
            Hmmm, I wonder why the public would respond differently to leak like that than to an oil spill.

          • Gee lenny, I grew up in the Peace Country. People don’t blame oil companies for the actions of saboteurs.

          • Just imagine if they did: “How could you allow your system to be so vulnerable to saboteurs causing insignificant natural gas leaks!”

          • lenny, I am not sure if you are being purposely obtuse or you just don’t understand. Sour gas is not “insignificant natural gas”. Sour gas, which is what was in those pipelines that were bombed, is natural gas plus hydrogen sulfide. It is HIGHLY toxic, even in small amounts. Now, are you done with whatever you are trying to say?

          • So, if those leaks weren’t insignificant, why don’t you tell us the damage they caused and the cleanup that was required, and we can compare them to the oil pipeline spills that you think aren’t any different in the public’s mind, aside from the cause.

          • lenny, lenny, lenny……I never said the leaks were serious. I said they were small and luckily they weren’t serious. My point was that citizens don’t usually blame companies for product failure when sabotage is involved. However, I had no clue that YOU have an agenda. Obviously YOU have never lived in a place that was evacuated due to a sour gas leak. I have. Do you think it isn’t frightening for the citizens? You act like oil spills are the only thing that would concern anyone. Why is that? Gee, could it be because you are hellbent on blaming the oil companies no matter what caused the crash. Well go ahead. I don’t work for an oil company. I don’t get any money from an oil company. You are barking up the wrong tree.

          • “My point was that citizens don’t usually blame companies for product failure when sabotage is involved.”

            A point which you tried to establish by comparing oil spills from pipeline leaks to a small gas leak. When I pointed out that it was an invalid comparison you started flailing. Six flailing comments into it and you still haven’t provided any evidence of your original assertion. You’ve instead decided to fantasize about my thoughts.

          • “When I pointed out it was an invalid comparison you started flailing.”
            Gee, lenny for someone who was too arrogant to bother to get their facts straight about what was even in the pipeline, you certainly have an interesting take on my debating skills. “Flailing indeed”. Next time, do your homework……
            Bye, lenny.

          • So are you disregarding what Leach wrote in the above article – you haven’t addressed it yet.

          • No, not at all. I think I have been pretty clear that I agree fully with Canucker on this one. It is time to concentrate on the people who have been devastated by loss and let the investigators do their jobs before you start predicting what this means for any industry.

          • But that is not the topic of this thread. Dr. Leach is an expert on the energy industry, not the social/psychological effects of a tragedy like this.

          • There was natural gas in the pipeline. Sour gas is natural gas.

          • Hahaha! Awesome lenny keep saying that. Sour gas is natural gas with a lot of hydrogen sulfide in it.. It is highly toxic to human beings and animals. That is why people are often evacuated when it there is a pipeline eruption or a well blow out. Do your homework please before you continue to spew misinformation.

          • You know what lenny, instead of continuing with your disingenuous attempts to invalidate what I have said, why don’t you be straightforward and admit: That natural gas with a low concentration of hydrogen sulfide has no odor, is not toxic and is referred to as ‘sweet gas’. Whereas, natural gas with a higher concentration of hydrogen sulfide in it has the odor of rotten eggs and is called “sour gas”. Sour gas, depending on the percentages of hydrogen sulfide (can be as high as 90%) is toxic when breathed in by humans and animals. What was in the pipelines that were bombed in the Peace River country was sour gas. There was a leak but it was small and the RCMP said that there was no danger. However, there have been several instances where humans have been evacuated due to leaks in sour gas pipelines. One such leak just occurred a few weeks ago in Turner Valley, Alberta. Residents had to be evacuated.

          • Who said Wiebo was the bomber?

          • He was arrested for the bombings in Jan, 2010.

          • I did not realize he was not charged or convicted. I removed any mention of him in my comments. Thanks for the heads up.

          • Did I say otherwise?

            You were comparing public reaction to an oil spill, to reaction to a small gas leak(which incidentally was immediately stopped by a safety valve) (which incidentally was immediately stopped by a safety valve).

            Oddly, you’re reluctant to actually compare the damage caused and clean-up required by the two, instead waving your arms and shouting “SOUR GAS! SOUR GAS!”

          • Hahaha! Did you say otherwise….Yes you did when you said it was the same as “leaving an unlit barbecue (which runs on sweet gas) on”.

            Sour gas and sweet gas are as different as night and day and you are completely disingenuous.

            As for my not addressing the cleanup or damage. Why is that an issue. If sabotage causes immense damage v. little damage, the public is more forgiving of the saboteur v. the company? I am thinking of 9/11 where the damage was immense and I am thinking that the majority of people held the terrorists responsible for said damage?

          • I think you’re going to have a hard time convincing the public that the railroad’s habit of leaving trains like this unattended overnight, on a main line is not being negligent. It’s like leaving loaded guns lying around.

          • We were discussing the culpability of the oil company in the eyes of the public, Jan if sabotage were involved. However, please save yourself the bother of getting involved because I am done.

          • “We were discussing the culpability of the oil company in the eyes of the public”

            Uh, no. We were discussing the premise of the piece, which has little to do with blame. Try reading the last two paragraphs again.

          • Try reading the part where I said “I am done”.

          • Sorry, that doesn’t immunize your comments from scrutiny.

          • I am sure you not really sorry but I REALLY DONE!

          • Funny you wouldn’t provide the full quote me. Maybe it’s because I said “caused the kind of environmental damage that leaving an unlit barbeque on causes”.

            Talk about “disingenuous”.

            So tell me, what kind of damage did the gas leak cause that an unlit barbeque wouldn’t?

            ” I am thinking that the majority of people held the terrorists responsible for said damage?”

            I see your point now. Because terrorists were responsible for the planes crashing into buildings, 9/11 wasn’t bad for the airline industry.

          • Either way, risk of sabotage is still a risk, no?

          • Perhaps but if we stopped using any item that could be used by a saboteur as a weapon, you would be giving up many things. A car driven in to a school room in St. Paul, Alberta killed 2 and injured many and traumatized an entire school to the point that it shut down. Do we stop making cars because they can be used as weapons?

          • I think you are missing the point – the author is correct to point out that after such a catastrophic tragedy occurs the public perception of risk changes. It will continue to evolve as the costs sink in.

            Btw ..gas wells are stationary — this article discusses the transportation of dangerous goods – affects more people….

          • I am not sure what you are alluding you to lenny and I were discussing the sabotage of a sour gas PIPELINE, not a well. A pipeline facilitates the transport of dangerous goods.

          • According to the CBC ( and my sometimes shaky memory ) Ludwig was convicted of bombing oil and gas wells in the 1990′s but no charges were laid in connection with the spour gas pipeline bombings ( Jan 8 2010 )

            terrifying and despicable yes, but I kinda doubt people living thousands of miles away worried about going to sleep in their beds. ( unlike the millions of us who live near railway tracks )

          • With regard to “millions of people living thousands of miles away” from the crash site in Quebec but near railway tracks being afraid to go to sleep at night, I have no idea if that is accurate or not. I cannot speak to the experiences of others…especially millions of people.
            I live 2 blocks away from a very busy railway tracks and I don’t have any fears. I would say anyone who does have fears that are keeping them from sleeping should speak to their physician.

          • Oh i might have exaggerated a bit but we have built our cities around our railway lines in many cases – and it seems like only yesterday Calgary had to deal with the bridge incident in the middle of having to deal with a flood.

          • Yes, I live between the Bow River at one end of my block and a railway and the end of the next block.
            I am 50 years old and I have lived within “spitting distance’ of a railway for 45 years of my life. I find the sound of the train kind of soothing. It is quite ironic…our towns and cities first relied on rivers for transportation so they were situated around rivers and then they relied on the railway so they were also built around railways. One small town I lived in was actually relocated in the 1920′s (they even picked up a few buildings and moved them by horse and big flat-bed wagons) because the train track was laid 5 miles away from the existing town site. That is how important the railroad was to a town in those days. Who would have thought it would have become such a liability?

          • I have always loved railways – been near them all my life – it is the current lack of government oversight I feel is a liability – hopefully they will now do some serious soul searching and decide to put public safety first. ( Re transporting dangerous goods regardless of method used )

          • I apologize, I did not realize that they did not charge Mr. Ludwig. I removed his name from the comments I made regarding the bombing. I thank you for your information.

          • simply by Volume of rail Cars its at a greater risk to be dangerous From my knowledge oil should be the sole freight carried as other MORE explosive products IE Ethylene Oxide in that mix would have made it a disaster of Far greater proportions. I’ve seen 30 car train of EO WOW what a BOMB add Crude to that. Regulation makers I hope your listening to this. the crude would have just made the fire fight more difficult and hotter as well as long lasting. THE EO would have helped rip open any Certification of Rail Car. hypothetical but possible !

  2. So Let me be VERY CLEAR, IS it not up to Harper to PROVE that he allowed oil to be transported by rail in the safest way possible, with the least risk to environmental and peoples safety. The same argument he is using for pipelines. So show us that the best possible practices were used and regulations followed and this is just an accident and not the result of neglect or cost cutting on the part of the oil companies.

    A VERY SIMPLE answer that should be provide quickly, by a government that has promised us so much in the safe transportation of oil products.

    • You may not get a “quick answer”. If you have been reading the newspapers, you will find that the American owners of the train, Rail Inc. are claiming that they are NOT at fault and that either sabotage OR negligence by a Canadian fire-department that put out a fire in one of the engines one hour prior, caused the accident. If the owner is right, either a crime occurred or it was a case of negligence caused by a fire fighter.
      Regardless, other products which are as flammable if not more so than oil are transported by train through Canadian towns and cities everyday. To single out the transportation of oil products as being somehow more risky than many of these other highly explosive products is somewhat naive.

      • NO it is up to the Harper Government to prove that they have rail safety under control and the best possible practices are being used and enforced. To suggest a Terrorist act, as Ezra levant has claimed, is basically saying US Citizens came on Canadian soil and committed a tragedy equal to to the attack on the world trade centre.

        To blame Heroic Firefighters for negligence is again akin to an attack on people who risk their lives day in and day out to save lives.

        What is so Hard for the Harper Government to produce its policies on the safe transportation of any product by rail, for the company involved to show us their safety record etc etc..

        So far the ONLY threat to Canadians safety and security these days, is not terrorist acts, but government incompetence, and corporate greed!

        • “To blame Heroic Firefighters for negligence is again akin to an attack on people who risk their lives day in and day out to save lives”.
          Tell me…what is your position when a plane crash is blamed on pilot error?

          • I turns me off flying for a while – as I am sure it does others.

          • Well it might turn you off flying but when it is proven that a company has done crappy maintenance on a plane and THAT has caused a crash, the company usually ends up out of business because the company ends up charged and it turns everyone off flying with THAT company.

          • Well, if we could get back to the oil business, Exon and BP are still in business but their negligence has had a negative effect on the whole industry. That is what the above article is about. I know you love going off on tangents, but this is what the subject is here.

          • There are a lot of highly flammable and toxic products being transported by train, I am not sure that this will only be about oil.

          • I would assume that the Canada Transport rules are the same for similar products – are you suggesting oil is being held to a stricter standard than others?

          • Is that what you got from my comment?

          • You just said oil is being singled out.

          • No, I said “there are a lot highly flammable toxic products being transported by train, I am NOT SURE this will be only about oil.” Let me interpret for you…Many people are concerned about the things we are transporting through their towns including other highly flammable and toxic products. I don’t know that this incident won’t become a discussion about that practice. Already there is lobby in the US to stop the transport of ethanol by rail through communities because of several explosions.

          • Well, we all realize that there are a lot of highly flammable products being transported by train. However, this incident places a bullseye on oil. That’s what matters! And, I agree with the author of the article, that there will not be any positive effects coming from it, including, for pipelines, except, perhaps, stricter regulations.

          • Yes, okay you agree with the author that this incident places the “bulls eye” on oil. I don’t agree. I think it places the “bulls eye” on the safety of ALL flammable and toxic products we are transporting including chlorine, toluene, compressed oxygen, compressed propane, viruses, bacteria, etc., etc. Take a look at the #1 worst train disaster in Canada….caused the biggest evacuation…..no oil on that train. People are worried about the stuff rolling through their towns, oil included. In the US the big concern is ethanol because explosions of that flammable material have put it in forefront.

          • If you consider evacuation worse than death, then sure, it was the #1 worst train disaster in Canada.

          • Take it up with Macleans…it was #1 on THEIR list of the 10 worst train crashes, not mine.

          • Sincere apologies…it was #2.

          • The list says 10 of Canada’s worst train accidents and doesn’t include Megantic.
            Regardless, you obviously have no problem accepting that evacuation is worse then death when you think it can advance your argument.

          • lenny, you can believe whatever you chose to. I personally feel nothing “is worse than death” and I certainly am not as invested as you seem to be in advancing an argument. For instance, I have no interest in offending YOU or anyone else in order to do so. I would say it has been delightful conversing with you but then that wouldn’t be true so I will just say goodbye.

        • The company whose train blew a town to smithereens is blaming someone else…that’s a shocker.

        • It is up to the public to wait until an investigation is completed to see where the fault lies. To make half-cocked statements like Mulcair without having information on the causes of the accident is irresponsible at the best and totally disrespectful of the victims and their families at its worst

          • There’s plenty of information out there already for those willing to open their eyes and see it.

          • Like the results from the investigation that hasn’t been performed yet?

          • Like the fact that a train wasn’t properly inspected for safety issues by railroad employees on the scene after a fire on the lead engine was extinguished by local firefighters. Are you really trying to tell us that that doesn’t matter? What are you, some railroad lawyer?

          • A lawyer or judge goes to the school to study law you read an articles on the internet and know all the answers

          • I also worked for both CN and CP transporting crews to and from their trains all over southern Alberta and into BC and Saskatchewan.

          • But you are not an insider to this accident

          • That’s true. Just an insider to the business who knows what he’s talking about. I’m not trying to cover anything up and I’m not telling people to look the other way while the usual railroad spokesmen tell us to close our eyes to what we already know and wait while they meander their way through an investigation that may well take many years.

      • To be fair to the respectable owner of MMA, he quickly blamed terrorist and/or sabotage in the immediate aftermath. After that explenation was judged far-fetched, he blamed it on the firefighters that did not follow proper procedure. Now that it as been demonstrated that said firefighters were trained to intervene on these engines and followed MMA’s own intervention procedure, including handing over the train to MMA personnel, he is now blaming the employees involved. Do you see a pattern here?
        But don’t worry. As soon as the personnel in question demonstrate that they acted wihin guidelines, he will quickly blame someone/something else. So far, he as only needed minutes to come up with a new culprit.
        Regarless of this buffon, it is shocking that it is possible to run an operation that involves transporting dangerous material across towns and villages with so little security requirements. You have to put your handbrake on when parking your car in a hill, but you can leave a running train carrying hazardous material unattended overnight.

    • Actually, considering that there is now word that Harper told the railway company to short-shrift safety measures… he DOES need to explain himself.

  3. The cause of the Lac Megantic tragedy may/may not become clear in the days ahead. But what is clear is that unknown to most people, the risks from transporting oil have increased as much as the amount transported. “The Canadian Railway Association recently estimated that as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil are expected to rattle over the nation’s tracks this year, up from only 500 carloads in 2009…. The Quebec disaster is the fourth freight-train accident under investigation involving crude-oil shipments since the beginning of the year, according to the federal Transportation Safety Board…. The rail line was involved in another accident in the same area last month. About 13,000 litres of diesel spilled from a train after it derailed in Frontenac, just east of Lac-Mégantic…” all from a Toronto Star article July 8. So, people, what are we going to do about it??

    • What do you propose “we do about it”?

      • what a fine opportunity for TCPL to show Canadians that their new Energy East Pipeline will be a good thing eh?

      • How about stopping corporate greed and supporting sustainable development?

  4. There has been a minimum of 5 run away train incidents in Canada each year for at least the past decade. http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/montreal/8631894/story.html

    The train company appears to be blaming the firemen who put out the fire in Nantes in one of the 5 locomotive cars (attached to 70+ oil cars). Airbrakes are meant to be the means by which the train driver sets the brake as it can be done from the cabin. The driver is then meant to set a sufficient number of mechanical brake locks on the actual cargo cars. This is fail-safe procedure regardless of the volatility/hazards associated with cargo (e.g. is the same for an empty train). Airbrakes are not fail-safe as they require active power to maintain pressure. This will likely be a focus of the investigation of the tragedy.

    But let’s put “blame” aside as well as potential impact on the oil industry and spend a little more time thinking about the horrors that befell the town and the many still missing…..

    • “Airbrakes are not fail-safe as they require active power to maintain pressure.”
      ________________________________
      That statement is correct, however, the pressure keeps the brakes OFF. If the train loses pressure in the brake lines, then the brakes go ON.

  5. There was Bakken oil, not oilsands oil in those cars. Regardless, blame is on the rail company, not big oil. What if the cars contained fertilizer? Blame big farm? Andrew should get out more.

    • Hoo boy.
      Has the state of reading comprehension really gone down the tubes or has the internet just made it seem that way?

  6. This is all the fault of environmentalists. They are the ones who block the pipeline. They are evil and must be stopped. There are no longer just responsible for killing jobs. Now they are killing people. The blood is 100% on the hands of the environmentalists. No more. They must be stopped and stopped now. What ever it takes.

    • Well you’ve got those military guns in your avatar there, why don’t you take them to Lac-Mégantic and offer to help hunt down the environmentalists who caused this

  7. So….Andrew…do we just FLIP the OFF SWITCH to everything??…Ontario has already demonstrated that a concerted effort to “BUY” alternative energy is NOT even close to a viable option…..yet….”VIABLE” alternatives may be here tomorrow…or decades away…in the mean time…there is that Inconvenient “OFF SWITCH TO EVERYTHING” Over and over we hear the whining and crying from the Enviro Lobby…but you never hear about what they would provide as “VIABLE” solutions….”solutions” are apparently NOT THEIR PROBLEM…
    Rate(TAX) payers in Ontario are going to suffer the “Total Lack of DUE DILIGENCE” by the McGuinty LIBERALS for decades to come….This is not a question of “will it hurt the PETROLEUM industry”…this is a question about “the Safety of the Transportation Industry(INCLUDING PIPELINES) which includes the Security Provided by said industry to make sure it is not an ongoing target for terrorists….as PETROLEUM “IS” the only “Viable” alternative AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME….

  8. Thank you Mr. Leach.

  9. It’s being downplayed that this would have been far less likely to have happened prior to the Harper majority. In their first omnibus bill C-138 (last May), my understanding was they didn’t just strip oversight of environmental regulations on energy/oil related business, but also from TRANSPORT regulations. Prior to that, the Ministry of Transportation oversaw all train transport, but now that has been downloaded to the Train companies (e.g., “cutting red tape to increase productivity”). Old guidelines required every car be braked plus a night watchman in a caboose so no train left unattended. Neither of those things were required for that oil-transporting train.

    So doesn’t the Harper government bear some responsibility for this? This is what happens with de-regulation – human tragedy and enormous cost. Why must we re-learn this lesson again and again!?

    • TOTAL BS!!!….DEREGULATION happened under the Liberal Administration years before Harper took office….bare faced lying about this does no one any good.

    • Please specify which regulations were changed under Harper that would have prevented this horrible disaster.

      Cabooses were phased out in canada in the early 90s, in the US in the 80s, and pretty much everywhere else in the world in the same time range.

      Please specify the name of the regulation that required “all cars to be braked” and the date it was repealed. I can tell you for sure nothing like that was repealed under Harper… It’s unclear if such a regulation ever existed, but if the cause of this incident is pure human negligence and existing rules weren’t followed, what makes you think additional rules would have been followed?

    • Get Lost Amanda…you are off topic…go spew you’re rant where it is appropriate.

    • Do you hate freedom of expression?

  10. If someone was killed in a mysterious explosion, the police would certainly start by looking for possible motives to kill that person. If the spouse had the most to gain from that death, and serious financial interest in the death of the person who died (like a 7 billion dollar inheritance, and the new possibility of revenues from close 900,000 barrels of oil per day), the spouse would certainly be not blamed, but at least suspected by the police.

  11. Wondering who is really in charge of the investigations. Will the feds, under the tight control of the Harper’s pro-oil sand/pro pipeline oil powerful sponsors, destroy or rejects any evidence that goes against their interests? Well, I guess this will be hard to know for the average North American.

  12. Anyone who thinks that this is a slam dunk for pipelines is delusional and doesn’t understand the anger right now. Just the thought of using the death of these “loved ones” to push yet another agenda for “big oil” is making many people physically ill and mad as !@#!@#. Big oil makes record profits, highest valuation companies, zillions of dollars. Yet they leave a train unattended overnight. AND at the TOP of a hill… AND AFTER a fire on the train. That’s supposed to make us feel good about how they will behave with pipelines? Like the bonuses to those big wigs after the BP oil spill in the gulf of Mexico for having the “safest year on record”. Tell that the the families of the 19 people who died on that rig + everyone around the gulf. The only thing that is sure right now, is that we all HATE big oil. Time and time again they show us that we can’t trust them. They will never make enough money. There are always more corners to be cut. The quicker we can switch away from oil, the better. My solution in the meantime? Laws and laws and more laws. Money talks, make the punitive actions so high [and I mean it, make it in the billions] that they start “caring” about the money they could lose if they ever do this to one of us again. Because when it comes to money, they start to “care”….

    • No, “big oil” did not leave a train unattended. A train company did, and it’s a very common practice all over the world. I definitely hope something is learned from this incident so nothing like it ever happens again. It looks like this incident probably resulted from human negligence and failing to follow existing rules, so it will be a challenge to figure out how to change rules to account for that.

      The timeframe for civilization switching away from oil has nothing to do with your emotions and everything to do with technological progress. Progress is being made, but oil will continue to be with us for decades.

      As for the profits of big oil, it’s a classic case of profits that are “an inch deep and a mile wide.” Big oil’s profits are not egregious and their profit margins are not very large, by any standard. The reason big oil makes so much money is sheer scale… i.e. because almost everyone uses and buys oil.

      • The one thing I learned from this incident is oil patch people should live in the mess they create.

        • Where did this oil come from?

          • What does it matter where it came from? The Bakken, Fort Mac, you all create the same mess?

          • “you all create the same mess”. I am a nurse, not an oil patch person. However, I will admit that I do use oil products. I do drive a car. I do go on vacations on planes. I use plastic products. I do NOT make any money from the oil business and neither does my husband or my children or my daughter’s spouse. My parents did not work in the oil patch either.

          • “So, you’re a nurse and you use oil products” – so what’s that got to do with all the tea in China?

            Residents in Lac Megantic say the “tanker cars” are going going through their town morning, noon and night. Do you think they’re transporting potatoes to make french fries for 6,000 residents?

            This is about getting crude oil to the refinery in NB and shipping to International markets. It’s about greed and big oil making money as fast as they can. Even Stevie Wonder can see this.

          • You seemed to be under the misconception that I am in the oil patch. I have NOTHING to do with oil except to use the products like most people do.

          • Yes, you made that very clear and I also read the very good point that hcinbc made above. The shear volume of crude oil/diluted bitumen travelling across this country today is insane whether it’s by pipeline/proposed pipeline or rail and the obvious reason for that is because the industry is booming. People would be equally fed-up if it was anhydrous ammonia or some other dangerous good being shipped through their neighbourhoods day in and day out. The point is these mega industries are now transporting such enormous volumes that the chances of a huge disaster through a populated area is greatly multiplied. When other peoples lives, property, homes, access to clean water and their livelihoods are destroyed because of someone else’s blatant disregard it makes a sad statement about humanity.

    • PierreBus

      Well said. This preventable catastrophe shows nothing more than Mega Corporations with tunnel vision making colossal profits on a shoestring budget.

  13. The disaster at Lac Megantic is a rational argument for using pipelines instead of trains to transport oil. If people insist on continuing to use oil, it will have to be transported to them, and it should be transported by the safest means possible. Yes, the immediate result will just be more anti-oil sentiment, but that sentiment doesn’t seem to translate into reduced oil consumption.

  14. . . . and while the discussion continues about the rail safety, a new pipeline is expected to carry as much as 4X more oil than tanker cars to the same destination, only it’s diluted with toxic solvents so when it ruptures we have an even bigger disaster.

  15. A case for clean energy perhaps?

  16. PIPELINES ARE SAFE NEW ones safer Old ones require inspection on an annual basis now. and replacing with new ones as we speak taken off line if les than safe but bu independent inspector’s unsafe segments replaced but we need to remove them from line for cleaning and inspection. trains NO WAY too risky too many rail incidents annually. Industrial ones are fire prone. Yes the California San Bernardino Incident was a disaster I was on the scene the next day . it was a hell on earth. LIVES and ECO disaster . NOT as bad as the Quebec Disaster from the pictures I have seen

  17. Get over it guys its safe to Fart once in a while!

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