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Lac-Mégantic, Que., Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche will take part in a briefing for U.S. lawmakers on North American rail safety on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Lac-Mégantic, Que., Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche will take part in a briefing for U.S. lawmakers on North American rail safety on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Lac-Mégantic mayor presses U.S. for regulatory changes in rail transport Add to ...

The mayor of tragedy-stricken Lac-Mégantic, Que., was in the U.S. capital Tuesday pushing for regulatory changes in rail transportation.

Colette Roy Laroche says she doesn’t want other towns to suffer the same fate as hers.

She will tell a congressional panel about the train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people and destroyed her town centre last summer.

“This accident could have happened anywhere,” she told a news conference before heading to Capitol Hill. “We need to act now – before it’s too late for other communities, other people, other grandparents, other parents, other brothers, other sisters, and other children.”

She’s in Washington with a group of mayors of towns situated along rail lines.

They’ve already met with the Obama administration and asked it to go farther, faster in forcing upgrades to the trains used to transport oil.

Now they’ll ask Congress to consider regulatory changes that would create more scrutiny for small rail lines, but also easier access to liability funds in the case of disaster.

They also want their first-responders to have more information about the cargo passing through their towns, unlike the case of Lac-Megantic where it’s only just become clear how flammable its Bakken crude-oil cargo was.

The mayor of Barrington, Ill., says she’s been involved in the issue since a fiery crash of ethanol cargo killed a woman in her area. She failed to get any action and the Lac-Megantic disaster hit home.

The explosive oil-cargo route crossed the border three times and the accident could have happened anywhere — including her town, said Karen Darch.

“But for the grace of god,” Darch told a news conference, seated at the news conference with Roy Lachoche and Vicki May Hamm, the mayor of Magog, Que., and Roger Doiron of Richibucto, N.B.

“There are no borders when it comes to rail safety in North America.”

Roy Laroche said she wanted to get lawmakers to focus on the enormous strain that might be avoided with better protection.

“What I’d like to remind people of are the costs related to the catastrophe of Lac-Megantic.

“The cleanup costs, the decontamination, the restoration, the support for a population that is still in distress — that’s still struggling to recover ...

“Why not invest in prevention? Instead of trying to repair the unrepairable.”

She said she was pleased by the degree to which Americans seemed aware of what happened in her town.

In fact, research presented this week at a conference on Quebec-U.S. relations by the Wilson Center’s David Biette showed that news coverage of the tragedy in some U.S. media last year was more than all other Quebec stories, combined.

Her handling of the tragedy has made Roy Laroche a household name in Quebec.

Her public recognition is so high that there was speculation she’d be recruited to run in the current provincial election, rather than retire soon as planned.

Roy Laroche said in an interview that she avoided getting solicited by making it clear, well in advance, that she had no desire to run for any party.

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