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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Canada needs to review and improve rail haz-mat safety, Senate energy committee report stresses


In a recently issued report, Canada's Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources calls on the Canadian government to initiate a major "arm's-length review" of the nation's rail regulatory framework, standards and industry practices to boost the safety of hazardous materials transportation.

Titled, "Moving Energy Safely: A Study of the Safe Transport of Hydrocarbons by Pipelines, Tankers and Railcars in Canada," the report provides 13 recommendations related to energy transportation by rail, transmission pipelines and tankers. The report is based on a study the committee launched in November 2012 that involved 18 hearings and testimony from from 51 witnesses, including government officials, industry representatives, spill-response and environmental organizations, landowners and other stakeholders.

In the the report, committee members call on Transport Canada to implement all the recommendations from a December 2011 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development related to haz-mat transportation. Members also recommend that Transport Canada, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration, find ways to accelerate the phase-out of the "CTC-111A" and "DOT-111" tank cars, and apply minimum liability coverage thresholds to railroads to ensure they have the financial capacity to cover damages caused by a major accident.

Among other recommendations, the committee strongly suggests that the National Energy Board and Transport Canada create a web portal that includes interactive maps indicating detailed information on haz-mat spills and incidents involving rail cars, pipelines and tankers; and Transport Canada work in partnership with railroads to make existing safety culture assessments mandatory within its audit program.

"The goal of our study was to examine the current state of emergency and spill prevention, preparedness and response frameworks under federal authority, and to make recommendations to improve public safety and the protection of the environment," said Canadian Sen. Richard Neufeld, who chairs the committee, in a press release. "We've been working on these issues for the last nine months and the shocking Lac-Mégantic rail disaster has only intensified the need to address hydrocarbon transportation safety. In the years ahead, hydrocarbon production will continue to grow, and so will transport capacity."

Canadian railroads welcome the report and thank the committee for its efforts to help ensure the safety of all supply chains for energy products that are so vital to Canada's economy, said Railway Association of Canada President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bourque in a prepared statement. The rail sector was privileged to have had the opportunity to provide testimony to the committee during the course of its proceedings and shares its conclusion that a "top-to-bottom" safety culture is fundamental to haz-mat transportation, he said.

"As the rail sector reviews this important work, it will work with the government and other stakeholders to continue efforts to improve the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada," said Bourque.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/26/2013