Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary

Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary
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It’s corporate greed versus the common good, whether it’s rail safety or climate change.”

Those were the words of Lowen Berman, a Portland activist involved in a blockade of oil train tracks to mark the second anniversary of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster.

Berman and 60 other activists protested in Portland today as part of a national Oil Train Week of Protests led by 350.org and ForestEthics.

Portland’s Climate Action Coalition sponsored the blockade at Arc Logistics for a memorial service on the two-year anniversary of the oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

While activists in Portland were protesting against the danger of bomb trains on the anniversary of the disaster in Lac-Megantic, activists in Lac-Megantic were also marching.

Emotions and politics are tied together in this, unfortunately,” Jonathan Santerre, an activist and founder of the Carré bleu Lac-Mégantic citizens’ group told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s shocking that after everything that happened, people’s lives still come second to money.”

Santerre has a point. As detailed on DeSmogBlog, the events in Lac-Megantic can be directly attributed to corporate cost cutting. 

In Portland, the activists were blockading tracks where oil trains travel weekly through North Portland. The Climate Action Coalition is calling for an end to fossil fuel development and an immediate transition to a renewable energy.

At the same time, a new report by the Sightline Institute predicts that if all of the currently planned projects for oil-by-rail infrastructure in the Northwest are completed, they would require more than 100 loaded mile-long trains per week to traverse the Northwest’s railway system.

And residents along the tracks are becoming increasingly aware of the threats. In addition to the protests in Portland, activists were arrested in Benicia, California today protesting the oil trains.

In Albany, New York — the largest distribution hub on the East coast for oil trains, earning it the nickname Houston on the Hudson — there was another protest.

There is much to fear among residents living near the tracks within the blast zone, and you certainly don’t have to be an environmentalist to care about this public safety threat. Sadly, The Hill suggests that this whole week will be marked by protests by “greens.” 

There is no doubt that there is increased awareness and efforts to try to protect the millions of people who live near the tracks carrying dangerous oil trains. However, as we wrote over a year ago here at DeSmog, the people of Lac-Megantic still want the executives at the top to be held accountable. As one local said at that time as they arrested the train engineer and other low level employees involved in the Lac-Megantic disaster, “It’s not them we want.”

With the new rail regulations doing little to protect people, and the CEOs of rail and oil companies supporting lawsuits challenging the new weak regulations, it is unlikely things will change. As the Portland activist said today, “It’s corporate greed versus the common good.” 

Lac-Megantic is a stark example of how corporate greed is winning.

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Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary
Justin Mikulka is a freelance investigative journalist. Justin has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

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