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Maine weighs options for MM&A traffic

Written by Douglas John Bowen

As speculation rises over the future of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A) following the July 6, 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, officials in Maine are pondering options for continue shipment of crude by rail through other means.

Uncertainty has increased as Quebec officials ordered Hermon, Maine-based MM&A and two fuel service companies, World Fuel Services Corp. and Western Petroleum Co., to pay for cleanup costs incurred following the disaster. Estimates have placed a cost of at least US$4 million. “The citizens of Quebec are not the ones that will have to pay for this,” Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet said Monday in a televised news conference.

Maine transportation officials acknowledge that alternatives are being weighed in case MM&A ceases operation. “We’re discussing it. I wouldn’t be straight with you if I said we were not,” Nathan Moulton, director of rail for the Maine Department of Transportation, told Canadian media. “We’re preparing. We’ve talked with our lawyers so that we’re prepared, and we’re doing our background.”

One option is for alternate movement by rail. But at least one MM&A customer, Tafisa Canada, reportedly is considering substituting truck haulage.

But Moulton said Maine officials are already in discussion with other rail operators about shifting traffic, even if only on an emergency basis. A barge-to-rail detour via Albany, N.Y., also is being considered.

MM&A’s crude-by-rail service has been delivering product from North Dakota’s Bakken formation to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, provided a much-needed financial boost to the short line prior to the Lac-Megantic derailment.