AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Governor Paul LePage says he's going to Lac Megantic, Quebec, on Saturday to show Maine's support for the people of the town, three weeks after the terrible train explosion and fire.
Forty Seven people are known dead in Lac Megantic, and six blocks of the town are gone. The Governor says Quebec Premier Paulina Marois asked him to attend the memorial service.
The Governor also says state officials are doing everything they can to prevent a future accident here, with the specific work assigned to the Maine Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection.
The Maine DOT says the Quebec tragedy has been a serious wake up call for the entire transportation industry. The DOT's Rob Elder says the agency has contacted the five railroads that operate in Maine, asking for details on track safety and train operations. Elder says he's confident the railroads will cooperate. He says federal railroad officials have been in Maine since July 9 inspecting tracks, and are still doing it.
The Governor says the Maine DEP has also been revising emergency plans and is making sure equipment is in place to respond to future accidents if they happen. The Governor says he's especially concerned about railroad tank cars. There have been reports that the tank cars in the Quebec accident were older model cars that critics say are likely to rupture and spill their oil in a derailment. More modern cars are "double hulled", like oil tankers, are are built to better withstand the shock of derailments.
The Governor says he wants future oil trains in Maine to use modern, state-of-the-art tank cars. And while the state can't mandate that, LePage says he's confident that irving Oil, which owns the refinery that is the destination of the trains, will require the use of the modern cars.
The MDOT says it also hopes to learn more from the railroads about crew sizes and other operational issues. The Lac Megantic train had only a single crew member, who parked the train and left for the night. Since the disaster, Canadian officials have mandated at least two-person crews. Elder of the MDOT says federal railroad regulations in the U.S. still allow one-person crews, but he expects that will also be discussed by the federal agency as part of its review.