MMA Locomotive Engineer Didn’t Cause Tragedy, Defense Tells Lac-Mégantic Trial

Thomas Harding’s lawyers say rail company never assessed risks of parking train on Nantes slope

By Alison Brunette, CBC News Posted: Jan 08, 2018 7:21 AM ETLast Updated: Jan 08, 2018 8:15 PM ET

Tom Harding, left, consults with his legal team, Charles Shearson and Tom Walsh, at the Sherbrooke courthouse.

Tom Harding, left, consults with his legal team, Charles Shearson and Tom Walsh, at the Sherbrooke courthouse. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

Tom Harding, the locomotive engineer indicted for his role in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, didn’t cause the tragedy, his defence lawyer said Monday.

Speaking before a packed courtroom, Charles Shearson, one of Harding’s lawyers, asked jurors to recall the testimony of the Crown’s expert witness, Stephen Callaghan.

Callaghan analyzed information gathered from the locomotive’s black box and told the court Harding did not properly test the train’s handbrakes before leaving the fuel-laden train idling on the tracks the night the runaway train rolled into Lac-Mégantic and derailed.

“Harding did not do an efficiency test in perfect compliance,” said Shearson.

“So [Callaghan’s] conclusion was not that Harding caused the accident, but that he did not prevent it,” he said. “But a lot could have prevented the event.”

Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) employees charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the derailment and ensuing explosions which killed 47 people. Also charged are former operations manager Jean Demaître and ex-rail traffic controller Richard Labrie.

Harding, Labrie and Demaître all waived their right to present a formal defence and did not testify.

Other pieces of the puzzle

Shearson asked jurors to recall the testimony of several Crown witnesses which lends support to his claim that many factors could have prevented the accident.

“What if MMA had done different route planning,” he asked, “or if derailers had been made available?”

Shearson also reminded jurors that the accident may also have been prevented had the locomotive’s safety system been calibrated in a different way.

Earlier in the trial, the court heard that an automatic penalty brake application never engaged when firefighters shut down the lead locomotive just an hour before the train ran away, after a fire broke out in the smokestack of the locomotive because of a retrofit in the wiring.

“Maybe if there was no fire, there would have been no accident,” said Shearson, adding “there is no evidence to establish the cause of the fire — Isn’t that an important piece of the puzzle?”

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Harding right to keep locomotive running

The Crown has argued that Harding didn’t apply enough handbrakes to the train. It also said Harding should never have relied on the locomotive’s air brakes to secure the train.

Shearson countered that Monday, pulling out MMA’s general operating instructions, which indicate the lead locomotive should be left running with its independent brake engaged when left unattended.

Shearson said Harding wasn’t in perfect compliance in the way he tested the train’s brakes.  But he said Harding did do an efficiency test.

Recalling Callaghan’s analysis of the black box data, Shearson told jurors that when Harding left that train it had more than two and a half times the force required to hold it.

“It was not going anywhere,” he said.

Shearson told the court that the Crown had said Harding had been made aware firefighters had shut down the locomotive after the fire.

But on Monday, Shearson said that wasn’t true.

“Harding was never told that the 5017 was shut down,” he said, implying there was a miscommunication at some point along the way.

Harding ‘an easy target’

Earlier in his closing arguments Monday, Shearson asked jurors to remember that the investigators who searched the MMA offices after the tragedy testified they were specifically looking for documents pertaining to Harding.

“It put him in an unfair spotlight,” Shearson said. “It made him an easy target to shift responsibility to.”

Shearson plainly told Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and the 14 jurors that Harding isn’t perfect and didn’t secure his train according to regulation.

But he said it’s unfair to judge Harding for not being perfect.

“That’s a high standard — to hold someone to perfection and then not accept responsibility,” said Shearson.

“Although Harding’s conduct was not perfect it was reasonable. When you look at the entirety of the evidence you have the image of a very reliable man.”

Shearson listed a number of other factors that contributed to the derailment, including the degraded condition of the tracks and MMA’s failure to conduct a risk assessment on the consequences of parking a heavy fuel train on a slope at Nantes, 13 kilometres from downtown Lac-Mégantic.

“If there was a risk at Nantes no one, not management, no one at MMA or Transport Canada, foresaw the problem,” said Shearson. “So how can we blame Harding for not foreseeing the risk?”

Safety of one-man crews called into question

Switching between English and French, Shearson highlighted the relatively new practice of one-man crews, in which locomotive engineers were forced to secure their trains alone.

He reminded jurors that Crown witness Steve Jacques, an MMA rail traffic controller, had testified that after the rail disaster, MMA put out a memo instructing locomotive engineers who operated one man-crews to tell the rail traffic controller on duty how many handbrakes they’d applied to their parked train.

Jacques had testified before that instruction came down, rail traffic controllers had refused to follow the directive because it put too much responsibility on them.

“Not only did some persons at the company not want the responsibility,” said Shearson, “they would not accept it.”

Shearson asked jurors if it was reasonable to think that all employees at the company should be on par with implementing safety standards.

Closing statements for Harding continue Tuesday.

The Crown delivered closing arguments in Sherbrooke, Que., last week, as did lawyers representing Labrie and Demaître.

Protests Coast To Coast, And Even Abroad Meet The Final Phase Of The Lac-Mégantic Trial

Richard Labrie

Tom Harding

The most important rail safety trial of our time will soon be in the hands of the jury. They are tasked with the difficult decision of whether or not to hold rail workers accountable for actions of their employers because it’s plain that there will be no other accountability, despite what is now a matter of public record.

The wrong people are on trial. Check out this interview with RCI, Radio Canada International. 

The stakes are high. But fortunately, many people across North America are not fooled by the Crown’s phony veneer of holding people personally accountable for the tragedy. No such real personal accountability will ever be made, since the government made it’s decision to target only the last persons in a danger chain that continues across every railroad to this moment.

On January 4th and 5th, in cities across America, people took their call for real rail safety, No More Lac-Mégantics and opposition to scapegoating workers to Canadian consulates as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil. In several cases, they had to experience severe weather but came out anyway, knowing how important this case is. Active rail workers, Union members, working class militants, rail and other retirees protested in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC and Minneapolis. Solidarity activists, Climate Change fighters, volatile oil opponents and environmental activists turned out their support to add their voices to the protests and delivering notice to the Canadian government that justice and rail safety cannot be served by framing up rail workers for the conditions they are forced, with government complicity, to work under. In some cities, they delivered printed statements and letters to consular officials.



Members of rail unions, Railroad Workers United, the United Electrical workers, Communication Workers of America and others were joined by the Workers Solidarity Action Network, the Backbone Campaign, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and many others stood up to oppose scapegoating and stand with the community of Lac-Mégantic, whose activists have an ongoing fight for the safety of their town more than 4 years after the government appointed scapegoats have had no role.

These stand up people across the country have taken their time, money and energy into the street and to the Canadian consulates because they know that their own concerns, health and safety are at stake in the outcome of the Lac-Mégantic trial.

In the court room in Sherbrooke Quebec, one of the scapegoated rail workers, Tom Harding, was able to see photographs of the protests, letting them know they are not alone in the fight for actual accountability.


On Monday, January 8, 2018, attorney Charles Shearson has begun presenting the defense of Tom Harding. That defense will be a summary of the evidence presented by the Crown prosecutors in their attempt to demonize Tom Harding as the criminally negligent cause of the wreck that nearly destroyed Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 outright. It should be noteworthy that the defense has made the determination that the facts supporting acquittal of Harding are already in evidence having been made by the Crown itself.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

The case will go to the jury this week. A conviction of one or both of the scapegoated rail workers is the signal the rail industry across the continent has been waiting for…a signal that they are free to conduct any and all of the dangerous practices and policies documented in the wreck of Lac-Mégantic, without any fear of liability. Some, like the actual policy makers and owners of the Montreal Maine and Atlantic (MMA), who are still free and running railroads around the world will breathe even easier as they take their profits; knowing that what they did will never have consequences for them.


People are watching this trial all over the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The activists who braved the cold last week to deliver the message that we are all watching will be talking in the coming weeks, along with their Canadian counterparts, about the next necessary steps that we must take if we are truly going to see No More Lac-Mégantics!

Washington DC


Message from Italian Rail Workers Supporting Harding and Labrie

CubFerrovie CubRail

CUB RAIL, An Italian Rail Workers Organization Has Been A Long Time Supporter Of The Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers.


Tutta la nostra solidarietà e tutto il nostro appoggio ai ferrovieri processati per il disastro di Lac Mégantic.
Vogliamo Tom libero!


All our solidarity and all our support to the railway workers tried for the disaster of Lac Mégantic.
We want Tom free!

Support for Harding and Labrie is increasingly international

A Brazilian Workers Union Takes Up The Cause of Supporting the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

CSP-Conlutas  Quinta, 04 de janeiro de 2018

CSP-Conlutas – Central Sindical e Popular

Apoio Apoio internacional

CSP-Conlutas expressa apoio a ferroviários do Canadá acusados de negligência em acidente


Tom Harding, à esquerda, em julgamento ocorrido em 2017 – Foto


Um dia Internacional de Luta acontece nesta quinta-feira (4) em defesa dos ferroviários do Canadá, que são acusados como responsáveis por um acidente ocorrido em julho de 2013.


Tom Harding, engenheiro e condutor do trem, Jean Demaitre, gerente de operações e Richard Labrie, controlador de tráfico, foram acusados de negligência por este acidente e enfrentam julgamento que tem início nesta quarta-feira (3) e segue até sexta-feira, no Tribunal Superior de Quebec, em Sherbrooke.


Mobilização – A denúncia dos sindicatos locais alerta para os riscos que a precarização dos serviços trazem aos usuários e trabalhadores do setor, e afirmam que a responsabilidade da explosão é da empresa, a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA), e do governo, que flexibilizou a regulamentação do setor.


Entenda – Em 2013, um trem desgovernado que transportava petróleo bruto vindo dos Estados Unidos descarrilou na cidade canadense de Lac-Mégantic, explodindo e matando 47 pessoas, além de destruir parte do centro da cidade.


O trem continha 72 carros com mais de 2 milhões de galões de petróleo cru, e de acordo com a norma da empresa só apresentava um condutor e engenheiro responsável, Harding.


Apoio – Aqui no Brasil, a CSP-Conlutas estará amanhã (4), às 15h, em frente ao consulado do Canadá, em São Paulo, para entregar moção de apoio aos trabalhadores.



*com informações da Fenametro


KPFA WorkWeek Radio covers the Campaign

From the Open-Publishing Newswire

Related Categories: International | North Bay / Marin | U.S. | Labor & Workers

Campaign For Framed Railroad Workers Facing Trial For Lac-Mégantic Wreck
by KPFA WorkWeek Radio
Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM
Three railroad workers are on trial in Lac-Mégantic, Canada for causing a massive train wreck that killed 47 people. The real reasons are the destruction of health and safety standards by the companies in the drive for greater profits. They are now targeting the railroad workers as the cause of the catastrophic dangers that they have created by deregulation and union busting.

Pacifica KPFA WorkWeek Radio looks at a railroad workers defense campaign taking place in Quebec , Canada. In 2014 a major train wreck took place in Lac-Mégantic when a run away train with loaded with highly dangerous fuel smashed into the Lac-Mégantic city center killing 47 people. The company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) and the Canadian government blamed three workers for this catastrophic wreck.

USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic.

With growing rail and transit disasters in Washinton, New York City and throughout the country are the workers really to blame? We look at the deregulation and the attack on rail workers and health and safety conditions by railroad bosses. On January 4th there will be protests at Canadian consulates in the US and around the world to demand freedom for these railroad workers.

WorkWeek is joined with Railroad Workers United RWU and Workers Solidarity Action Network WSAN member Mark Burrows who is a retired SMART 1433 Canadian Pacific railroader and is helping to organize the defense campaign. We also interview Fritz Edler who is a veteran Locomotive engineer, and chair of the Lac-Mégantic rail workers defense committee and a special rep for Railroad Workers United RWU.

For more information and media:…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher……/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…
Production of
KPFA WorkWeek Radio
workweek [at]

1/4/18 International Day Of Action To Defend Framed Lac-Mégantic Railway Workers-Stop One Person Crews And Destruction Of Health & Safety Standards in Transportation System

1/4/18 Thursday Jan 4th, 2018
Press Conference and Rally in San Francisco on Thursday Jan 4, 2017 at 12:00 noon at the

San Francisco Canadian Consulate 580 California St. San Francisco, California

Additional information about actions in the US and internationally will be forthcoming.

On Thursday January 4, 2018 there will be an international day of action to defend three USW Canadian railway workers. Locomotive engineer Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. As a direct results of the elimination of crews leading to a one person crew, this disaster was man made by the corporations which are eliminating railway safety protections and who control the politicians. The Canadian government in fact like the US government is controlled by these same rail bosses who are only interested in more profits at the cost of lives, communities and the environment.

Increasing rail wrecks and explosions throughout North American are endangering workers, members of the community and creating havoc. These so called “accidents” around the world are a direct result of deregulation, privatization and the attack on transportation workers and their unions.

Not surprisingly, no charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decisions.

The scheme to blame the workers for these disasters is a cynical ploy to shift the real responsibility for the growing number of transportation catastrophes taking place in North America and in country after country.

We call for the dropping of charges and for the real criminals who are the executives of MMA and the government officials to be prosecuted for endangering the community and the workers.

Put the real criminals on trial!

In San Francisco there will be a press conference and protest at the Canadian Consulate at 12:00 noon. The consulate is located at 580 California St. San Francisco.

This international day of action has been endorsed by
Workers Solidarity Action Network
Railroad Workers United
United Public Workers For Action

Additional media:…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher……/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…

§Man Made Explosion At Lac-Mégantic

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

The deregulation of railroads directly led to the catastrophic explosion at Lac-Mégantic. Now the company and the Canadian government are blaming the workers in a criminal frame-up

§Drop The Charges Against Canadian Railway Workers

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

National Canadian union Unifor is calling for the dropping of the charges against the Lac-Mégantic railway workers on trial.

§Railroad Dangers Grow In Canada and US

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

The attack on health and safety protection for greater profits is threatening the workers and communities.

§Train Wrecks Becoming Commonplace Under Capitalist Rule

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

The attack on health and safety and the drive for profits is increasing the number of train wrecks not only in Canada but in the US. Workers and communities are being destroyed by these companies who are backed up by the government agencies which are supposed to protect the public

§Drop The Charges

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

The Railroad Workers United RWU is leading the campaign to defend the framed Lac-Mégantic railroad workers.

§USW Locomotive Engineer Tom Harding Is Fighting Back

by KPFA WorkWeek Radio Wednesday Dec 27th, 2017 10:51 AM

USW locomotive engineer Tom Harding and the other railroad workers are fighting back against the company government frame-up to hide the real criminals.

National Press Release

Press Release

Drop The Charges! Safe Rails Now! No More Lac-Mégantics!

Rallies Across The Nation Supporting The Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Washington DC, January 2, 2018:

Protest events will take place across North America and around the world this week calling for real rail safety and accountability regarding rail disasters like the 2013 Lac-Mégantic oil train wreck. Railroad workers, rail safety and environmental activists will be calling upon the Canadian government to drop the charges against framed up rail workers as the prosecution case against them unravels. Canadian rail workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are currently on trial for the deaths in that disaster. The criminal trial has highlighted the connection between dangerous railroad policies and the need to hold the right people accountable for the danger created.

On January 4th and 5th, 2018, rail safety activists will be calling on the Canadian government to stop it’s diversionary prosecution of rail workers who have no control over the majority of the causes identified by government reports and independent investigations. In many cases, the causes identified are also at issue in other railroad wrecks in the last years, yet no policy makers are held accountable.

The trial testimony has been clear. The actions of rail workers Harding and Labrie did not cause the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. But risky decisions and policies by railroad managers and their government regulatory enablers must be addressed and those responsible held accountable if we are to have rail safety across North America.

Safe Trains Now!

No More Lac-Mégantics!

Harding and Labrie Did Not Cause The Wreck, Drop the Charges!

San Francisco Rally-Press Conference

Thursday January 4, 2018 12:00 PM

San Francisco Canadian Consulate

580 California St. San Francisco, CA

Chicago Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Thursday January 4, 2018 1:00 PM

Chicago Canadian Consulate

180 N. Stetson St.

Chicago, Il

Seattle Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Thursday January 4, 2018 Noon

1501 4th Ave

Seattle WA

Washington DC Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Thursday January 4, 2018 12:30 PM to 1 PM

Canadian Embassy

501 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington DC

Minneapolis Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Friday January 5, 2018 2:30 PM

Minneapolis Canadian Consulate

701 S. 4th Ave.

Minneapolis MN

Actions in other cities are in the process of being organized.

More information:

Actions Across North America In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers


Safe Trains Now!

No More  Lac-Mégantics!

Harding and Labrie are not guilty!

Rail Workers Did Not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Train Wreck

Drop the Charges NOW!


San Francisco Rally-Press Conference

Thursday January 4, 2018 12:00 PM

San Francisco Canadian Consulate 

580 California St. San Francisco, CA

Chicago Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers 

Thursday January 4, 2018 1:00 PM

Chicago Canadian Consulate

180 N. Stetson St.

Chicago, Il

Seattle Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Thursday January 4, 2018 Noon

Seattle Canadian Consulate

1501 4th Avenue 

Seattle WA

Washington DC Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Thursday January 4, 2018 12:30 PM to 1 PM

Canadian Embassy

501 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington DC

Minneapolis Rally In Support of the Scapegoated Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Friday January 5, 2018 2:30 PM

Minneapolis Canadian Consulate

701 S. 4th Ave.

Minneapolis MN


Over three years ago, a runaway train carrying dangerous Bakken crude oil crashed in the small Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic, Québec, killing 47 people and burning half the town.  People naturally wanted to why this tragedy happened.

The easy answer is always “human error” – some worker must have done something wrong.  That way nobody looks at the complex system of risky corporate management rules and government oversight that determine how safe the railroad really is.  So it’s no surprise that rail workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are on trial in Québec, facing 47 counts of homicide for causing the Lac-Mégantic crash.

The trial has been going on for over three months.  Over 30 witnesses have been asked who or what caused the crash. Witness after witness tore big holes in the government case. They testified under oath about management policy after policy made the railroad less safe, or about lax or even non-existent oversight by regulatory agencies. One last point: These witnesses, every one of them, were government witnesses.

The trial testimony is clear.  No, the actions of rail workers Harding and Labrie did not cause the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.  No, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause 47 deaths.  There is no good reason for this case to go on.  There is no good reason for a judge to decide on the fate of these two workers.  DROP THE CHARGES NOW!


We All Need Real Rail Safety Now! 

Just about every time a government witness talked about unsafe railroad management policies and procedures the trial judge jumped in: “The MMA Railroad is not on trial.”  Real accountability for the people of Québec and everywhere in North America requires a full inquiry and prosecution of those who created the risky conditions that still exist today.  As long as railroad management calls the shots without accountability,  there will be more Lac-Mégantics, more Seattle and Philadelphia crashes. More too long and too heavy trains, work schedules that guarantee exhausted crews, more trains with one crew-member on dangerous mile long trains.  Rail workers need more rail safety.  So does everybody who lives near a train line or rides a train.  That means all of us.   Dropping the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie is just the first step.

The Most Important Rail Safety Trial In North America Comes To A Critical Point

All The Evidence Has Been Presented

The Wrong People Are On Trial


The most important criminal trial of our time regarding the breadth of rail safety issues facing both rail workers and communities is about to conclude. On January 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2018; lawyers for the three railroaders being framed up for the disastrous wreck that took place on July 6th, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec will present their closing statements before the case goes to the jury for deliberation. The jury’s decision will determine whether these men will spend the rest of their lives in jail as well as closing the books on the official record of what happened in that small town more than 4 years ago.

The importance of the case cannot be overstated. Rail safety activists know that most times when rail safety concerns enter the public sphere, they are either distorted by Labor relations issues, or misunderstood by public misrepresentation. The Lac-Mégantic trial is different because the reckless result of dangerous policy decisions by railroad managers is now public record in a criminal proceeding. This almost never happens.

In the course of the 3 months since the scapegoating trial began, the government’s own witnesses, 34 of them, repeatedly cut the legs from under the narrative of the prosecution. The story was supposed to be that three railroaders…Harding the Engineer, Labrie the dispatcher, and De Maître the Supervisor…were CRIMINALLY negligent and it resulted in 47 deaths and huge destruction.

After all the prosecution’s witnesses finished; the defense teams collectively have determined that there are no additional facts or testimonies that needed to be added to the record…only the summing up of the evidence. They are staking their defense that the jury has already seen everything they need to, in understanding that these men are not guilty of criminal negligence.

Witness after witness testified how profit driven reckless policies actually prevented the safe course from being taken. Yet they were reminded more than once by the Judge, that “the company is not on trial”.

The jury learned that the railroad managers had zero budget and no practical efforts for safety or rules training on the job, leaving employees to argue among themselves about the application of rules that in many cases had changed dramatically over time.

They learned that the Montreal Maine and Atlantic (MMA) overloaded the most dangerous kind of cargo train by thousands of tons past their regulatory limits, but there was no company OR GOVERNMENT oversight regarding those practices.

They learned that the MMA purposely made the trains too long to fit into protected sidings that existed at the location, while running them with single crew members who had no options for operation except moving forward. Nothing else could be done.

Witnesses established that Harding was given a known defective locomotive that could easily have been switched from its dangerous role and repositioning it was actually requested by others; but the managers refused. Harding was given no warning concerning the known defects. It was established that the MMA had taken no measures to prepare anyone for a disaster that involved fire, despite hauling 72 overloaded cars of explosive oil.

What the jury has seen so far, including hours of recorded radio and phone calls by railroaders, is a workplace, by policy, with no vision of a safety priority, driven only by the relentless push for more and more transport at any cost.

Perhaps most damning was the evidence that Harding had been reprimanded and threatened with further discipline IF he used the train’s automatic brakes as part of securing the stationary train. This matter alone probably condemned the Lac-Mégantic victims to death because that simple normal rail procedure would most likely have prevented the runaway despite everything else.

While seeing the obvious outrageous excess of recklessness by the MMA, every railroader across the continent will recognize common themes on their own properties.  This is why the outcome of THIS trial is key to North American rail safety.

  • Less and less money spent on anything, especially training or supervision; that doesn’t directly affect “shareholder value” in a positive way
  • Removal of all safety related back ups, leaving single points of failure as a normal way of operating.
  • Longer, heavier more deadly cargoes….fewer crewmembers….less maintenence.
  • No backup crews available, meaning more and more chronic fatigue and disrupted distracting worklives. No one to call.

There is still a significant danger to all railroad work that the Lac-Mégantic trial may end in a conviction. Everyone should be clear that a conviction would be a signal to the industry that is already poised, that it is open season on these and other relentlessly dangerous ways of railroading. A conviction will justify their push into more and more single crew operations of skeleton operations where there are no safeguards and everyone is overextended. There is no liability for creating these conditions if they see they have been successful in pushing off responsibility for the criminal outcomes on the very people who are pushed under conditions of their employment to operate in reckless situations.

That’s why all folks who understand the importance of these issues for rail worker and community safety need to add their voices to the call for an acquittal and dropping of the charges in this critically important case.

Across the US, groups of rail workers and their allies and supporters will be holding informational pickets at Canadian consulates on January 4, 2018, holding the Canadian government accountable for the outcome and demanding real and meaningful rail safety for all of us.



Harding & Labrie Are Not Guilty!

Drop the Charges NOW!


The stakes in the Lac-Mégantic scapegoating trial of Harding and Labrie escalate

Failure to hold the railroads accountable for the conditions they create will be prelude to a resurgence of risky oil shipment practices

Costlier and more dangerous crude by rail set to rise again as oil production swells

New oilsands megaprojects are set to open and pipeline capacity is at a premium

By Kyle Bakx, CBC News Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 31, 2017 5:37 AM ET

Oil by rail shipments will rise in Canada as production surges and new pipelines face delays.

Oil by rail shipments will rise in Canada as production surges and new pipelines face delays. (Matthew Brown/Associated Press)

With new oilsands megaprojects commencing operations in the next few months, the amount of oil traveling on rail lines could escalate, especially as construction of new pipelines is delayed.

The sentencing of Irving Oil last week to pay about $4-million in fines for its involvement in the Lac Megantic disaster of 2013 brought the issue of shipping oil on rail lines back into the spotlight.

The attention paid to moving crude by rail peaked after the explosion in Quebec, but has subsided since, as volumes of oil transported by railways have fallen.

‘You could see companies looking at knocking the dust off their rail strategy.’– Kevin Birn, IHS Energy

Oilsands production keeps growing and will surge once Suncor’s Fort Hills facility and Canadian Natural’s Horizon project begin processing bitumen in the coming months.

“With the supply growth that is going to be happening, late this year [and] next year — there just simply is not enough physical capacity to move those barrels to market on pipelines that are currently available, so it will have to go to market on rails,” said Martin King, a commodities analyst with GMP FirstEnergy in Calgary.

He’s already noticing higher volumes being moved by trains.

“We’re starting to see more and more indications of barrels getting on the rails especially in September through October,” he said. “It’s slowly trending in that direction.”

Crude by rail exports


Crude by rail is more expensive than transporting crude oil by pipeline and considered more dangerous.

Production jump

The Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 and an explosion at Syncrude’s facility this summer are two reasons why less oil was loaded into tank cars and exported out of Alberta during the last few years.

Suncor says it expects Fort Hills to be operating at 90 per cent capacity within 12 months of startup at the end of this year. The facility was built to produce about 200,000 barrels per day. The company won’t say how the crude will be shipped to refineries.

Estimated Canadian Export Pipeline Utilization

The oil industry acknowledges that crude by rail will become more prevalent in the coming years.

“Since the pipeline capacity out of Western Canada is essentially full and with increasing production coming on line, we would expect that more will have to move by rail,” said Chelsie Klassen of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Added costs

Large oilsands companies have constructed rail loading terminals in recent years or have access to those facilities. While the terminals may not have been busy in recent years, that could change.

“We think that amount of supply will overtake the available pipeline capacity, and we will see a resurgence of crude by rail,” said Kevin Birn, a Calgary-based oilsands analyst with IHS Energy. “In advance of that, you could see companies looking at knocking the dust off their rail strategy and start testing it out with refiners to make sure they are ready to move this by rail.”

Shipping by rail instead of pipeline is more expensive and can cost a company about $3 or $4, on average, per barrel, according to Birn, although that can vary as some companies own their own loading terminals and rail cars. Some have also signed contracts with railways. Increased costs for Canadian producers could result in less interest from investors.

“It’s a cost companies in the U.S. don’t face, so there are competitiveness issues. It’s an investment disadvantage,” he said.

Alberta oilsands production forecast

To be sure, new export pipelines are nearing construction, but they face obstacles.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion is delayed as it waits for permits in British Columbia. TransCanada’s Keystone XL is awaiting approval from state regulators in Nebraska. And Enbridge has run into problems in Minnesota with its Line 3 replacement project.

The National Energy Board examined what would happen if none of the major proposed pipeline projects were built (Northern Gateway, Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, and Energy East).

While the regulator’s analysis included many assumptions, it found that Canada’s crude by rail volume could climb to destinations such as the U.S. Gulf Coast, Midwest, and East Coast.

Potential problems with increased rail use include railway and terminal bottlenecks, tanker car shortages and competition with other commodities for transportation services in Canada.