Liability for Lac-Megantic, Quebec, train explosion is assessed

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The chain of possession of the trainload of oil that crashed and burned on July 6 in Quebec is the central issue of two lawsuits filed over the incident.

The oil came from North Dakota and was destined for a New Brunswick refinery, responsibility for it changing hands a number of times along the way. The runaway train burned in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, destroying the center of the town. It is believed 47 people died, the Montreal Gazette reported.


A lawsuit filed in the United States on behalf of town residents names a railway company and several oil industry corporations, and a class-action lawsuit filed by two Lac-Megantic residents in Quebec excludes those entities but name the New Brunswick refinery.

Quebec Environmental Minister Yes-Francois Blanchet said on July 29 that costs for environmental clean-up after the accident, quoted at the time as $4 million but since raised to $7.7 million, would be borne not by taxpayers but by three companies; the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railroad, owner of the train; and oil transportation logistics companies World Fuel Services and its subsidiary, Western Petroleum Company.

Courts will take years to determine who is at fault, the newspaper said, a process complicated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic's bankruptcy last week.


Under Quebec law, owners of hazardous materials are responsible for cleanup costs in the event of a spill. McGill University law professor Richard Janda noted the liability would fall on World Fuel, although the company has denied responsibility for the derailment.

Questions also persist about what was aboard the train. Most accounts have listed the cargo as light crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields, but the Transportation Safety Board of Canada called the characteristics of the explosion and fire as "abnormal." If test prove the oil aboard was more prone to explosion than normal, World Fuel could be held liable for not taking appropriate precautions, the newspaper said.

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