July 8, 2013

Maine group protests in aftermath of Quebec rail explosion

A dozen protesters call for stringent inspection of Maine railways and a reduction in the amount of oil transported through the state.

By JESSE SCARDINA Morning Sentinel

HERMON — A dozen protesters from 350 Maine — including five of the six arrested in a recent protest in Fairfield — called for stringent inspection of Maine railways and a decrease in the amount of oil transported through Maine in the wake of the derailment in Quebec that caused catastrophic destruction and left at least five dead.

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Read Brugger, left, Jim Freeman and Nancy Galland were among a group of demonstrators in Hermon Monday who called for more stringent inspection of Maine railways following the deadly in train derailment in Quebec.

Staff photo by Jesse Scardina

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Holding signs that opposed fracking oil and the transportation of it, the environmental group members converged at the entrance of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the company that operated the train that derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, leveling the town’s downtown area, leaving dozens missing, at least five dead and countless questions as to how it happened.

“We feel this tragedy was avoidable and I want an independent investigation into these rail lines that carry these trains,” said Jim Freeman, one of the protestors arrested in Fairfield on June 27 for criminal trespassing after protesting a similar train from Pan Am Railways that was scheduled to pass through the town. “Just walk a couple hundred yards up a track and you’ll be shocked at the condition the railways are in.”

Read Brugger, another 350 Maine member who was arrested in Fairfield, also called for state and federal agencies to do more in making sure the transportation of oil is safe.

“The call for an inspection is absolutely what we need at this point,” Brugger said. Brugger added that while there’s still a need to transport oil, methods have to be developed to make the process safer and better for the environment.

“It’s not something we see happening overnight,” Brugger said. “We need to find alternatives.”

Freeman and Brugger said they intend to speak with local legislators “very soon” about how to better regulate the railways or to stop the transportation of fracked oil in general. Several members of 350 Maine said their next plan is to assist the people of Lac Megantic with whatever they need.

“Those of us gathered here today have a good friend whose family is from (Lac Megantic) and we await word of what we can do to comfort and support you,” said Robert Shaw, one of the protestors arrested in Fairfield. “We can only cling to the hope that your tragedy will serve as a cautionary warning for those who would put their own profit above the safety of others.”

Officials from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway declined to answer questions on Monday.

This story will be updated.

Jesse Scardina -- 861-9239


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