NB Southern Railway pleads not guilty to 24 charges related to oil transport

New Brunswick Southern Railway has pleaded not guilty to 24 charges related to the transportation of oil.

​Alleged safety violations by Irving company were found during probe triggered by Lac-Mégantic investigation

Lawyer Catherine Lahey is representing New Brunswick Southern Railway. (CBC)

New Brunswick Southern Railway has pleaded not guilty to 24 charges related to the transportation of oil.

Defence lawyer Catherine Lahey entered the pleas on the Irving-owned company's behalf during a brief appearance in Saint John provincial court on Friday morning.

The charges against the railway, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., stem from a Transport Canada investigation triggered by the 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., prosecutors have said.

Twelve of the charges under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act relate to failing to create proper shipping documents for the purpose of transporting petroleum crude oil.

The other 12 charges relate to having unqualified personnel handling dangerous goods — crude oil.

The offences are all alleged to have occurred between Nov. 3, 2012, and July 5, 2013, at or near Saint John.

Irving Oil would have imported about 14,000 cars of crude for its Saint John refinery during that period.

New Brunswick Southern Railway is part if NBM Railways, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., which also includes Cavendish Farms, Kent Building Supplies and Irving Pulp & Paper. (NB Southern Railway)

A trial date will be set on June 4 at 9:30 a.m.

Judge David Walker said the Crown is expecting to take about three weeks to present its case.

There is no word on how long the defence will take.

Pleas were delayed last month because the defence was still in the process of receiving an estimated 9,000 disclosure documents from the Crown.

The rail cars full of crude that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013 were destined for Irving Oil's refinery in Saint John. (CBC)

In October, Irving Oil was ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to 34 charges under the same act.

Those charges related to failing to properly classify the crude oil it transported by train and inadequately training its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods.

The crude oil in the derailed rail cars that exploded in Lac-Mégantic was destined for Irving's refinery in Saint John.

New Brunswick Southern Railway, along with its sister railways — Maine Northern Railway and Eastern Maine Railway — operates 883 kilometres of railway in New Brunswick and Maine.

With files from Rachel Cave