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Parties take step toward settlement for oil train victims

January 10, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Parties involved in a proposed $200 million settlement fund for victims of a fiery train disaster that killed 47 people asked a Canadian judge Friday to give them until September to pin down the details.

The court filing in Sherbrooke, Quebec, described for the first time how money from the settlement fund could be distributed to victims of an oil train derailment in July 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A similar filing of a draft settlement plan will be made later in a companion case in U.S. courts.

“This is the first step in implementing the settlement fund,” said Robert Keach, court-appointed trustee in the defunct railroad’s bankruptcy case in Maine.

Keach said he’s received commitments of about $200 million but hopes it will grow to $500 million. Several of the largest corporations with potential legal liability have not yet agreed to participate, he said.

Under the draft plan, wrongful death claims would receive at least 24 percent of the pool but that rate could rise under a reallocation of the government’s share, Keach said. In actual figures, that would amount to $57 million to $58 million for wrongful death claims from the existing $200 million, he said. But the formula could change before the final plan is approved by courts in Canada and in the U.S., Keach added.

Much of downtown Lac Megantic was destroyed by a raging fire caused when an unattended train with 72 oil tankers derailed in the middle of the night. More than 60 tankers derailed and several exploded.

The Maine-based railroad, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, filed for bankruptcy after the disaster and was sold for $15.85 million, virtually all of which went to repay creditors.

The railroad’s new owner, Central Maine and Quebec Railway, has resumed shipments of goods, such as propane and chemicals. The company has agreed not to ship crude oil through Lac Megantic until 2016, company officials said.


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