TORONTO (Reuters) - A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday approved a settlement that clears the way for payments to victims of Canada's Lac-Megantic crude-by-rail derailment, according to the trustee for the insolvent railway at the heart of the disaster.
The approval came after Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd (CP.TO) withdrew its objections to the plan, said trustee Bob Keach.
"The focus now is back where it should be, which is on the victims of the Lac-Megantic derailment, and getting them the compensation they deserve," said Keach.
He is aiming to have the settlement funds, some C$445 million ($345 million), paid out by the end of this year.
Forty-seven people were killed on July 6, 2013, when a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railway train carrying Bakken oil derailed and exploded in the heart of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.
Parties previously named in a class action lawsuit, including closely held Irving Oil, General Electric (GE.N), Shell Oil Co (RDSa.L), ConocoPhillips (COP.N), Marathon Oil (MRO.N) and others, agreed to contribute to the compensation fund for victims of the explosion.
CP Rail, which transported the oil tank cars involved in the accident to Montreal before handing them over to Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, has not contributed to the settlement. The railway has long argued that it is not responsible for what happened after it handed over the cars.
It challenged a Quebec court's jurisdiction in approving the deal, which left it as the sole target of the class action lawsuit.
In July a Quebec judge rejected CP's challenge, but appeals could have delayed settlement payments.
CP spokesman Jeremy Berry said CP "has been working with the trustee on a solution that protects CP's interests while allowing compensation to be paid to the victims as soon as possible."
"CP will continue to defend itself in any future lawsuits, as the train was not operated by CP employees, traveling on CP tracks, or using our locomotives or railcars," he said.
Keach said the compromise clarified that if there is a judgment against CP in the future, any financial penalty would be reduced based on what ha already been paid under the settlement agreement.
($1 = 1.2947 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky