So the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters are on a sworn mission to neutralize if not completely refute (and more power to them) the ideological pretenses of the editorial board, reported on October 9 that a US judge approved the bankruptcy exit plan for the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway.
The approval opens the path for victims of the 2013 train runaway, derailment, and explosion to begin receiving payments from a $343 million compensation fund.
MMA, insured for only $25 million, isn't putting up the $343 million, and of course despite the off-the-cuff promises of Ed Burkhardt CEO of MMA's parent, Rail World, Rail World isn't footing the bill for the clean-up.
The bulk of the $343 million comes from the contributions of oil companies, companies whose executives know better than to make ad-lib comments, to show up at disasters, or conduct impromptu press-conferences at the accident site. Companies like...Shell, Marathon, Conoco, know the value of discretion, and that discretion is always the better part of value.
Now $343 million is not an insignificant chunk of change, but as impressive a number as it may be, it hardly covers the cost of this disaster. Local and provincial government agencies who have been paying for the clean-up stand to recoup $148 million when final costs are still not known but expected to top $200 million.
Property claims will absorb about $32 million. If I recall correctly, 66 buildings in the downtown center of the town were either destroyed in the blast or demolished afterwards. Over 115 establishments were effectively put out of business. Couple that to the loss of commerce over last 2 years, and $32 million doesn't seem all that much, does it?
And then there are the victims-- 47 perished in the fireball. Reports in 2015 are that half the remaining population of the town suffer from PTSD and/or depression, and I believe that's an understatement. Even if not, I know I'd be in that half. And...?
And the survivors, and the relatives, the families of those who perished will share $86 million. Not really enough, is it? Not even close.
What's my point? Just this: none of this $343 million, as inadequate an amount as it is, gets figured as the cost to the railway. None of this gets included when FRA or DOT does a cost-benefit analysis.
Sweet, huh? Light up a whole town. Incinerate half a hundred people or so, and when we want to figure a cost-benefit for measures that railroads might be required to institute to prevent such disasters, guess what? Sorry, those numbers don't count.
Bankruptcy, you say? The railroad was forced into bankruptcy and liquidation? Isn't that enough of a punishment?
Punishment is precisely not the point. Cost-benefit is not a determination of guilt or innocence. We're talking prevention, not punishment.
Look, I was trained to know, to act upon knowing, that every operating decision is a financial decision. I think that's a good way to evaluate what we need to do, and how we need to do it. But let's use real numbers. Let's use real costs. Let's not hide the costs in damages funded or unfunded by third parties, like governments stuck with the clean-up; or oil companies settling up; or insurers making the payments; or the costs just being left unfunded, meaning the town, the survivors, the population just continue to suffer and suffer and suffer.
October 22, 2015
This ain't happenin', man. This ain't happenin'.-- Hudson, Aliens