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Rallying for Rail Safety & Reform

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It’s been two years since several petroleum tank cars derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, claiming 47 lives and almost destroying the small Canadian town in eastern Quebec. Activists in Richmond are using the anniversary to not only commemorate the victims, but also draw attention to rail safety and reform.  

Dozens gathered in Richmond to honor the lives lost in Lac Megantic with a vigil and to discuss the impacts of a similar disaster – as well as what policy measures are needed to avoid one. Kendall King with the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition was in attendance:

“We see it with pipeline fights, we see it when we remember things like Lac Megantic is that our communities – literally our backyards – are battlegrounds for these fights.”

Pat Calvert is the Upper James River Keeper and a speaker at the event. His office sits on the river, and he remembers watching the explosion in Lynchburg last year when 17 tank cars derailed. While no lives were claimed that day in Lynchburg, Calvert says in the context of Lac-Megantic, it was definitely a wake-up call for all rail towns.

“We came awful close to it on April 30th of last year, and knowing the proximity of Richmond to the rails and what comes through here several times a week by the millions of gallons – I think we’re trying to bring some reality to it so that we don’t have the same issue here.”

While trains hauling the volatile Bakkan crude oil have taken to Richmond’s tracks without incident so far, an emergency plan is in place – as over 1 million people would be affected by a derailment in the area. King says she would like to see new forms of energy explored to thwart dependence on transporting oil all together.

“I would like our legislators and our energy producers to feel more responsible for the lives they serve and the lives they put at risk.”

This event coincides with more than 80 taking place nationwide this week in an effort to advocate a federal ban on dangerous oil cars, like the DOT-111, the tank involved in Lac-Megantic and several other derailments across the United States. 

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