New Brunswick

Lac-Mégantic train disaster shifting views in Maine

Anti-oil protesters in Maine say they are gaining political support in the wake of the fatal train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que. over the weekend.

Environmental lobbyist says people in state realizing similar accident could happen there

Anti-oil protesters in Maine say they are gaining political support in the wake of the fatal train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que. over the weekend.

The Maine legislature has been considering a study on the transportation of crude oil through the state and on Tuesday, a majority of members of the house of representatives voted in favour.

Reed Brugger, of the environmental lobby group 350 Maine, says people in the state are thinking such an accident could have easily happened there.

"So suddenly the state is realizing that perhaps rail infrastructure in our state is not up to carrying this vast quantity of oil in very heavy tankers across an old infrastructure," he said.

A 75-car crude oil tanker train was en route to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John when it derailed and exploded early Saturday, levelling parts of the downtown and killing at least 15 people with another estimated 40 people still missing.

The tragedy has turned the spotlight on the risks that trains passing through communities can pose.

The Maine study ended up being vetoed by the governor. It needed a two-thirds majority to go ahead. The final vote was 91-52.

Still, Brugger says he's more determined than ever to stop oil trains from crossing his state.

"These rail lines like everywhere else constantly travel along rivers, streams and lakes, and cross them regularly, and we're very concerned about the bridges being able to hold them."

Two weeks ago, Brugger was one of six people arrested in Fairfield, Me., for trying to block a similar train carrying oil to Saint John.

At the time, the worst he could imagine was the possibility of a catastrophic spill, he said.

"I never imagined this was possible," Brugger said, referring to the loss of life.

He's overwhelmed with grief and sadness, he said.