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Lac-Mégantic One Year Later

July 6, 2014 marks the one-year anniversary of North America's most catastrophic energy calamity when a runaway oil unit train carrying Bakken crude exploded in this small Quebec town killing 47 people and incinerating ten blocks of its downtown.
July 6, 2014, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Reporting from Lac-Mégantic, population 6,000, North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann states "that residents are still sorting out what parts of their lives and their community can be rebuilt," announces NPR host Robert Siegel in the introduction.

"The cost of rebuilding and restarting people's lives has already been huge - tens of millions of dollars. Still, many businesses haven't reopened. The town's beautiful river and lakeshore are still polluted," writes (and states in audio format) Mann.

Rebuilding has begun. Mann reports from "the new main street, the new downtown of Lac-Megantic," though a bit sterile, he notes.

One of the tests for this small town will be to see if they can bring this new heart of their village to life. As part of this weekend's commemoration, artists from Lac-Megantic and around Quebec are building a ceremonial boardwalk.

One of the artists who came to help sees the boardwalk helpful in "finding this balance between looking back and looking forward."

However, downtown residents won't need the boardwalk to be reminded of the catastrophe as a more visible and audible reminder may unintentionally serve that purpose.

Local officials say that unless Canada's government agrees to relocate the rails, those big oil tanker trains will resume their traffic here soon, rumbling again through Lac-Megantic's downtown and residential neighborhoods.

In an accompanying piece (listen here), NPR's national desk correspondent, Jeff Brady, interviews Patricia Reilly with the Association of American Railroads who notes the improvements in the U.S. made 'post-Lac-Mégantic.' 

"There's lower speeds. There's selective routes. There's increased track inspections. And this was not done a year ago," Reilly says. "People have to realize that a lot has been done to step up the safe movement of crude by rail."

One notable exception stands out though. Unlike Canada, the U.S. has addressed it only with a voluntary safety advisory.

The one piece of the puzzle that's missing is higher tank car standards," she says [referring to the infamous DOT-111 tank car.]

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Published on Friday, July 4, 2014 in NPR
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