On ..MDOT released its Rail safety study directed by Governor Paul LePage immediately after the Lac Megantic tragedy. The report is a classic of misdirection and green washing completely avoiding the many still unresolved issues of ” rolling pipeline safety” . In Maine the term , “rolling pipeline” is inextricably linked to JD Irving. The train that caused a nearly total devastation of tiny little Lac Megantic village and the trains that roll through Old Orchard, Portland, Yarmouth, Lewiston and Maine’s wilderness all carry Bakken crude from North Dakota and are all bound for JD Irvings refinery in St. John, New Brunswick. Indeed, JD Irving is the architect of the rolling pipeline system that allows Bakken from its isolated non pipeline served extraction and processing center in North Dakota to reach U.S. and Canadian refineries. When Enbridge pipeline refused to accept Bakken because of its corrosive and explosive qualities, not usually associated with crude, that pushed Bakken to a “rail only” distribution until the issues with Bakken are more closely studied and addressed.
Also at the heart of Lac Megantic was the suitability of use of old un retrofitted DOT-111’s known to explode and leak in derailments. Retro fit is cheap and yet the industry has effectively and with determination rebuffed all FRA efforts to mandate retro fit or replacement of all DOT 111’s by a date certain.
And then in Maine we have a problem common to all Class II and Class III rail in rural areas all over America: old and failing track with shrinking markets and not enough business to keep them afloat. That is especially true of the MMA rail including the 220 mile portion the State of Maine purchased for $20 million after abandonment was approved by the FRA. MDOT with help from our congressional delegation procured an additional $10 million TIGER grant intended to improve infrastructure and create jobs. MDOT leased this back to JD Irving for $1 a year under the most unconscionable lease I have ever seen. Among the outrageous provisions of this lease JD Irving may use equipment that is not recommended as safe by FRA and is not required to bid any of the work for maintenance and repairs or even use Maine companies for any wok it contracts.
MDOT Commisisoner Bernhardt and Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note have been very clear from the day of Lac Megantic that they consider rolling pipeline essential to viability of the remaining privately owned rail systems serving Maine’s businesses..and JD Irvings. Commissioner Bernhardt knows there is no believable way to assert that rolling pipeline is safe or that any Maine community these trains have been rolling through for almost two years is “safe”. The world has declared, the FRA has declared that is simply not the case and that every aspect of “rolling pipeline” has to be studied closely and a much better safety program put in place.
The report does not address any aspect at all of the huge and still unresolved environmental and public risks of JD Irvings rolling pipeline. It is basically a reaffirmation of the Commissioner Bernhardts determined silence on this issue.
The MDOT report doesn’t even include any one of the following key areas of risk and concern concerning J D Irvings rolling pipeline
(a) the cause of the 3 Pan Am rolling pipeline derailments in Maine already
(b) FRA’s current work and lack of answers on the rolling pipeline issue especially the use of DOT-111’s for Bakken
(c) the results of and details of any of the defects noted in FRA inspection of Maine track
(d) the condition of the 220+ mile section of track Maine owns and leases to JD Irving for $1/yr.
In short, it totally ducks the rolling pipeline safety issue as the Commissioner has as a matter of policy from the outset.
The Commissioners position clearly remains that rolling pipeline is needed income for Maine’s frail rail system and that the public risks, including a Lac Megantic tragedy, are secondary to the income rolling pipeline might bring to the rail system.
The report and the Governors executive order are completely disingenuous in its blanket reassurance of rail safety.
It is important to bear in mind that Canada’s ability to respond and effect safety corrections is very different from ours in the U.S. They license railroads so they can simply direct the terms and conditions of the license including insurance and bond requirements, capitalization, etc. The FRA struggles with a much mired tenuous and indirect influence over what is essentially a self regulated industry. But even within this framework there are many opportunities, including the State Safety Option, that allow states to appropriate local input to local safety issues. Our MDOT doesn’t participate in this program. And of course a Governor or DOT Commissioner can always write to the FRA to express concerns. My FOAA’s to MDOT have produced o evidence of any written expression of concern about the very great risk so many Maine communities are exposed to for the sake of JD Irvings rolling pipeline.
We have a breather at the moment. Bakken prices and foreign crude prices are too close in global markets to justify the extra cost of transportation by rail cross country. We may even have along term reprieve because D Irvings off load station on the Hudson, in partnership with Buckeye, is now bringing Bakken to Irvings refinery via marine transport..much much cheaper than rail.
No question that Maine economic vitality requires a shift away from trucks and trucking which add as much as 40% to the price of any Maine product according to the 2010 Can Am report. All with any environmental sensibility support rail over trucks for Maine. We definitely do need a modern, reliable Class II and Class III rail system here in Maine. But our Commissoner and our governor have to be willing to take a realistically hard look at whether we dare risk the easy immediate choice of rolling pipeline to keep us afloat until we have a better answer.
(Please see long chain of updates and links at end of post on MM&A underinsurance..I will try to bring those relevant to the background discussed here to this post as time permits)
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd
Stonington, Maine 04681
October 19, 2013
Class I Railroad Rolling Pipeline Derailment In Edmonton