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May 30, 2012

Maine receives oil shipments from the West

Maine will likely see an increase in the amount of crude oil from the West being shipped via rail through the state. Over the weekend, the state's railroads handled the first major shipment from North Dakota to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, and operators are preparing to handle more.

A train carrying 104 tank cars of crude oil, approximately 72,800 barrels, traveled over Pan Am Railways track in southern and eastern Maine on its way to Canada, according to the Portland Press Herald. According to Kevin Burkholder, editor of Eastern Railroad News, the shipment served as a test and will likely lead to additional shipments in the future. Pan Am Railways has been improving its tracks and equipment to handle more oil shipments, according to former Assistant General Manager Tom Hall. Additionally, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway plans to double the frequency of its service to six days a week between Montreal and Brownville Junction, the Press Herald reported.

The shipments face opposition, however. The crude oil is extracted using a controversial process called fracking that can pollute groundwater. A Canadian and South Portland pipeline company's exploration of transporting so-called tar-sands oil, extracted using a similar process, from Alberta to Maine has come under fire by environmental groups who say moving the oil poses safety risks.

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