Tag Archives: Musi-Cafe

$200 million settlement money announced for victims of Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Repost from The Globe and Mail, Toronto
[Editor: Significant quote: “‘The main three bad actors, World Fuels, Canadian Pacific Railway and Irving Oil, aren’t contributing a penny to this settlement. We’re going to keep going after them very hard in American court,’ said Mr. Flowers.”  – RS]

Settlement money announced for victims of Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Justin Giovannetti, Jan. 09 2015
Smoke rises from tanker cars in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Smoke rises from tanker cars in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The families of those who died in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster will have access to a $200-million (U.S.) fund, according to details released Friday from the bankruptcy case of the railroad responsible for the 2013 tragedy in eastern Quebec.

The fund still needs to be approved by Canadian and American courts before the first cheques are mailed to the families of the 47 people killed in the crash. A firefighter who died by suicide three months after the disaster was added to the list of victims. Money could flow as soon as this spring.

“The families of the victims need to live with this disaster every day. Those in town have gone into debt to try to get back on our feet and rebuild. If this could let us start over our lives on the right foot, that would be great, but we haven’t seen any money yet,” Yannick Gagné, the owner of the Musi-Café bar where the majority of the victims died, told The Globe on Friday.

Mr. Gagné has rebuilt the Musi-Café, but he’s still awaiting the help he says he was promised in the weeks after the disaster.

Just after 1 a.m. on July 6, 2013, a train carrying 72 cars of crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in New Brunswick careened while unmanned into the centre of town and derailed. A series of powerful explosions then levelled much of the city’s once picturesque downtown.

The settlement money announced Friday was drawn not only from the liquidation of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the firm at the centre of the derailment, but also from a number of companies that extracted the oil, built the rail cars and leased them to shippers.

According to Peter Flowers, a Chicago-based lawyer involved in a wrongful death lawsuit, talks are continuing about how much of the $200-million will go to the families of victims.

“The money goes to the wrongful death victims – a class-action filed in Canada – those who suffered economic and emotional damages, and to the provincial and federal governments’ environmental claims,” Mr. Flowers said.

Crews are still demolishing buildings in downtown Lac-Mégantic and locals remain jittery about how much compensation they’ll receive. Property owners downtown have received $37-million from the government. But victims of the disaster have so far received nothing from the companies.

While bankruptcy trustee Robert Keach said he is seeking $500-million for the victims’ fund before Monday’s filing deadline, Mr. Flowers said the decision not to pay by three of the largest corporations linked to the disaster was responsible for the shortfall.

“The main three bad actors, World Fuels, Canadian Pacific Railway and Irving Oil, aren’t contributing a penny to this settlement. We’re going to keep going after them very hard in American court,” said Mr. Flowers.

The three companies have so far denied any responsibility for the 2013 disaster.

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    CEO hopes town where 47 died will OK oil trains

    Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle, Biz & Tech

    CEO hopes town where 47 died will OK oil trains

    David Sharp, Associated Press  |  May 16, 2014

    FILE - In this July 6, 2013 photo, smoke rises from flaming railway cars that were carrying crude oil after it a train derailed in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada. A large swath of the town was destroyed after the derailment, sparking several explosions and fires that claimed 47 lives. John Giles, top executive of Central Maine and Quebec Railway, that purchased the railroad responsible for the derailment, said Friday, May 16, 2014 that they plan to resume oil shipments after track safety improvements are made.

    Paul Chiasson, AP  – FILE – In this July 6, 2013 photo, smoke rises from flaming railway cars that were carrying crude oil after it a train derailed in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada. A large swath of the town was destroyed after the derailment, sparking several explosions and fires that claimed 47 lives. John Giles, top executive of Central Maine and Quebec Railway, that purchased the railroad responsible for the derailment, said Friday, May 16, 2014 that they plan to resume oil shipments after track safety improvements are made.

    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The company buying the assets of a railroad responsible for a fiery oil train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Quebec plans to resume oil shipments once track safety improvements are made, its top executive said Friday.

    John Giles, CEO of Central Maine and Quebec Railway, said he hopes to have an agreement with officials in Lac Megantic, Quebec, within 10 days that would allow the railroad to ship nonhazardous goods, restoring the vital link between the railroad’s operations to the east and west of the community.

    The company plans to spend $10 million on rail improvements in Canada over the next two years with a goal of resuming oil shipments in 18 months, he said.

    “In the interest of safety, and I think being sensitive toward a social contract with Lac Megantic, we have chosen not to handle crude oil and dangerous goods through the city until we’ve got the railroad infrastructure improved and made more reliable,” he told The Associated Press.

    The oil industry is relying heavily on trains to transport crude in part because of oil booms in North Dakota’s Bakken region and Alberta’s oil sands.

    In July, a train transporting Bakken oil was left unattended by its lone crew member while parked near Lac Megantic. The train began rolling and sped downhill into the town, where more than 60 tank cars derailed and several exploded. The accident killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town. Three workers were charged this week in Canada with criminal negligence.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants the railroad and Lac Megantic residents to work together on a final plan.

    “Any plan the company has should take into account the tragedy the people of Lac Megantic have gone through and should be done in collaboration with the administration of the city,” said Carl Vallee, a spokesman for the prime minister.

    Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said only that she was monitoring the situation.

    Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche, who had no comment on Friday, previously told the new operator that she wanted the railroad to be re-routed around the downtown.

    News that the new railroad is already talking about resuming operations upset Yannick Gagne, owner of the cafe-bar that was at ground zero of the tragedy.

    “People are still in distress, in pain, facing financial problems, and we’re talking about the train company starting up,” the Musi-Cafe owner said.

    Giles said he intends to move slowly and understands the community’s concerns. He said he hopes to convince the people of Lac Megantic that the rail is safe enough for shipments of dangerous goods by this fall. He said he wouldn’t press for crude oil shipments until later.

    “I want to get the railroad in position that by January 2016 that I can at least begin to compete for potential crude business moving east-west,” Giles said.

    What business may be available at that point is unclear, the company said.

    New York-based Fortress Investment Group was the winning bidder for the assets of Hermon, Maine-based Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which declared bankruptcy after the disaster. Central Maine and Quebec Railway closed on the sale of U.S. assets on Thursday and is expected to close of the Canadian assets in a couple of weeks.

    Giles made his comments Friday in a telephone interview from Bangor, where his company had called former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic workers for a two-day meeting to talk about safety and operations.

    He said the rail is in rough shape, with speeds reduced to 10 mph in many sections in Canada. He said the goal is to improve the track to safely increase train speeds to 25 mph. He also said he has no plans to operate trains with a single crew member.

    With repairs, the company can transport crude safely, Giles said.

    “The railway is important to the community, people, jobs and commerce,” he said. “We believe and we’ve proven … that we can handle every type of commodity safely and efficiently.”

    ___

    Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report from Toronto.
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