Phasing out 5,000 unsafe rail cars 'a big step forward' after Lac-Megantic
Published Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:19AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:43PM EDT
The federal government’s decision to phase out unsafe rail tank cars and immediately prevent 5,000 of them from carrying dangerous goods is “a big step forward” in rail safety, the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said Wednesday.
Claude Dauphin told CTV’s Power Play that he’s satisfied with Ottawa’s move to adopt major rail safety recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board in the wake of last year’s deadly train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que.
He said he would give Transport Minister Lisa Raitt an “A” for adopting the TSB’s recommendations and moving to protect municipalities from train derailments and spills.
“Railway safety is very important for our members, for our citizens,” Dauphin said.
Raitt announced Wednesday that 5,000 of the least crash-resistant tank cars, known as DOT-111, will have to be removed from dangerous goods transport in 30 days. Other tankers carrying crude oil and ethanol must be phased out or retrofitted within three years.
Raitt told Power Play that the transport cars will have to meet new safety standards by May 1, 2017. If the standards are not met, the cars won’t be allowed to move crude oil or ethanol.
Railways must now also do risk assessments for trains carrying dangerous goods through municipalities, and rail carriers will also be required to prepare emergency response assistance plans for shipments of all petroleum products, including everything from crude oil to diesel.
Carriers have also been ordered to make their emergency response plans public.
“(The plans) will be available to immediately fire departments, police departments and so on, to let them know what they’re dealing with when there is a derailment,” Transport Action Canada president David Jeanes said. “That was the problem in Lac-Megantic.”
After the Lac-Megantic disaster, the U.S.-owned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway couldn’t cover damages and cleanup cost. Now, Ottawa is also requiring rail carriers to beef up their insurance.
Raitt said the new rules will also require trains carrying dangerous goods to travel at a maximum speed of 80 kilometres per hour.
Raitt said she struck a committee on the matter back in November, and representatives from the rail industry were involved in discussing the safety improvements.
Dauphin said the Federation of Canadian Municipalities agrees with the new rules, but does not want to see local taxpayers on the hook for the emergency response assistance plans. The cost of drawing up those plans must be covered by the industry, he said.
DOT-111 tank cars make up about 70 per cent of all tankers on North American rails. Concerns about their safety date back at least 20 years.
Although the Conservatives have been praised for taking action, the Opposition says three years is too long to wait for the phase-out or retrofitting of the tankers.
“What’s going to happen within the next three years,” said the NDP’s transport critic Hoang Mai. “They are definitely what we call ticking time bombs.”
With files from The Canadian Press