Canada tightens reporting rules for chemical, oil railcar shipments

20 November 2013 19:18  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Canada’s federal transport minister on Wednesday issued an order tightening reporting requirements for shippers of chemicals, oil and other dangerous goods.

The order, called a “protective direction”, is in response to July’s fatal disaster at Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where a 72-railcar train carrying oil derailed and exploded, destroying the town’s centre and killing 47 people. The train was shipping crude from North Dakota's Bakken shale oil region to a refinery in New Brunswick province.

Effective immediately, the government requires that any Canadian Class 1 railway company that transports dangerous goods must provide municipalities with yearly aggregate information, presented by quarter, on the nature and volume of dangerous goods the company transports by rail through that municipality, transport minister Lisa Raitt said.

In addition, any person who transports dangerous goods by rail, who is not a Canadian Class 1 railway company, must provide municipalities with yearly aggregate information on the nature and volume of dangerous goods transported through that municipality and notify municipalities of any significant changes to that information, as soon as possible.

Raitt added that the new rules would give municipalities tools and information to better prepare for possible future disasters. Following Lac-Megantic, towns and cities across Canada had been pressing for more transparency about dangerous rail shipments passing through their communities.

Claude Dauphin, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said: "Today's announcement is welcome news for Canadian communities.”

"It sends a clear message that the [federal] government fully agrees that local governments need to know basic information about dangerous goods being transported through their communities," Dauphin said.

Michael Bourque, president of the Railway Association of Canada, said that railways welcomed the order.

“Railways in Canada have always shared information about dangerous goods with communities and we support the formalisation of information sharing with municipal partners and first responders across Canada,” he said.

He added that “a remarkable 99.9977%” of all rail dangerous goods shipments in Canada reach their destination without a release caused by train accident.

Accident rates of Canadian Class 1 railways have declined significantly since 1999 to fewer than two main-track accidents per million train-miles, he said. Bourque is a former vice president of Canada’s chemical industry trade group, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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