Believe it or not! Our featured image (above) was shot a full twenty hours after the explosion first occurred.
Bob Marley’s iconic tune “War” starts us off today. “War in the East. War in the West. War up North. War down South. War. War. Rumours of a war.” Dig. It.
The following editorial is from the Gazette of Saturday, July 7th, 2014
MONTREAL — It has been a year since the unthinkable happened, since an unmanned runaway train hauling 72 oil tankers picked up speed while descending a hill and derailed on a curve in a small Quebec town, exploding on impact.
Forty-seven people died in the Lac-Mégantic inferno, and the historic centre of the town was reduced to ashes. The images are seared in our collective memory, but as we awoke back then on July 6, 2013, the first thought was: How could this happen?
A year later, we have some answers — but questions remain.
The town’s struggling economy, which has long relied on the railway, has not made things any easier. One councillor estimated that roughly 300 people are collecting employment insurance benefits and a total of 800 jobs were lost. Without the railway, residents are certain that the town’s biggest industrial employers would leave. But if the train comes back through town carrying oil – a real possibility after January, 2016 – others have declared they would choose to leave town rather than live in fear of another tragedy.
We know many mis-steps occurred in the hours before the disaster. Engineer Tom Harding left his crude-laden train parked on the main tracks uphill in Nantes with only seven handbrakes set, when experts say he should have deployed between nine and 15. One of the locomotives caught fire after he had left for the night and was switched off when firefighters extinguished the flames, cutting power to the air brakes. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic sent an unqualified employee to check the train afterward.
We know as well that the train was carrying a shipment of crude oil fracked in North Dakota’s Bakken Shield, and that it was on its way to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, N.B. This Bakken crude proved to be far more volatile than anyone was previously aware, and the DOT-111 tanker cars used to ship much of the petroleum were not sufficiently crash resistant.
We know, too, that the financially strapped MMA cut corners, didn’t maintain its tracks or equipment and only staffed its oil convoys with a single engineer. Shortcomings in regulatory oversight have also been alleged, while the economic backstory is that a lack of existing pipeline capacity has meant a 900-per-cent increase in shipments of oil by rail, a rate that is slated to continue growing as proposed new pipeline projects are facing political opposition.
Despite what we know, there are still many lingering questions that demand immediate answers.
We are still waiting for the Transportation Safety Board report to weave all the factors that contributed to the rail disaster into one definitive account. Only then will we have a full picture that might help prevent future disasters of similar magnitude.
The courts, meanwhile, must sort out whether MMA or three employees facing charges are criminally responsible, and ultimately must determine who is liable for damages in a class-action lawsuit. Justice takes time, of course.
But more pressing, emergency crews and municipalities still don’t know what dangerous goods are travelling through their communities, how much or when. Citing competitive and security reasons, rail companies only disclose this information a month after the fact.
A growing number of municipalities, from big cities like Montreal and Toronto to towns like St-Lambert and Sorel-Tracy, are demanding more detailed information in real time — especially with rail shipments of oil on the rise. While industry concerns are understandable, the public interest is enormous and a satisfactory method of transmitting this crucial information ought to be found.
There has been a raft of regulatory changes governing rail safety announced by Transport Canada in the past year including the following:
— Bakken crude has been reclassified as more dangerous for shipping purposes.
— Some 65,000 DOT-111 tankers are to be phased out or retrofitted within three years
— 5,000 older models have already been pulled from service.
— Speed limits have been lowered on trains pulling DOT-111s if they are carrying oil.
— One-man crews, like MMA was permitted to use, are no longer allowed on trains transporting hazardous materials.
— Dangerous shipments can no longer be parked on the main tracks, trains left unattended must be locked and sufficient brakes must be applied on any train parked for more than an hour.
— Emergency-response plans are now required for all rail shipments of petroleum.
END OF EDITORIAL
And now for something completely different, a blast from the past extracted from the excellent biography of Abraham Lincoln by Ronald C. White, jr.
Five years prior to the outbreak violence at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which signalled the beginning of the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), Republican Senator, Charles Sumner rose in the American Congress to condemn slavery.
In 1856 Republican Senator Charles Sumner took to the floor to denounce the threat of slavery in Kansas and humiliate its supporters. He had devoted his enormous energies to the destruction of what Republicans called the Slave Power, that is the efforts of slave owners to take control of the federal government and ensure the survival and expansion of slavery.
In the speech (called “The Crime against Kansas”) Sumner ridiculed the honour of elderly South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, portraying his pro-slavery agenda towards Kansas with the raping of a virgin and characterizing his affection for it in sexual and revolting terms. The next day Butler’s cousin, the South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks, nearly killed Sumner on the Senate floor with a heavy cane. The action electrified the nation, brought violence to the floor of the Senate, and deepened the North-South split.
(Based on the work, A. Lincoln, A Biography, by Ronald C. White.)
Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama voted themselves out of the Union within 40 days of Lincoln having been elected to the Presidency in November, 1860.
On February 4th, 1861, delegates from above-mentioned six southern states met at Montgomery, Alabama, “to begin the task of hammering out a new nation. Four days later, this Confederate Convention adopted a provisional constitution. The next day they unanimously elected a provisional President, Jefferson Davis.”
^^ White, Ibid,p. 745.
To conclude today’s varied lesson, two things:
First, to review from Sunday’s Juice, my pick in today’s semi-final: Germany will beat Brazil, the latter missing two stars – Neymar, a super-star actually, out with a broken vertebrae, and Captain Thiago Silva, who will sit as the result of having received too many yellow cards, which, ensemble, equal a red which means that Silva has played his last game in the 2014 World Cup, unless the Brazilians, minus arguably their two best players, still manage to defeat Germany.
Second, a short clip highlighting a lovely place to live, about 45 minutes East of Montreal.
Love. Peace. Until tomorrow.