New rail rules for dangerous goods fall short, critics say
Municipalities should have input on what goes through their communities, says Rothesay deputy mayor
Earlier this week, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that Canadian Class 1 railway companies, including CN and CP, will have to report that information every three months, while other companies will have to do so on an annual basis.
Rothesay Deputy Mayor Nancy Grant is encouraged that Ottawa is acting, but says the new rules won't change her municipality's situation because it still won't know exactly what is passing through on any given day.
Rothesay, a suburb of Saint John, has up to 10 freight trains passing through daily. There are seven intersections where roads cross the railroad tracks, including one neighborhood of 300 homes that has only one entrance and exit.
Grant says Rothesay has already been able to figure out what's passing by.
"Since Lac-Megantic, I think we have pretty well learned how to discern what's on the tracks," she said, referring to the deadly train derailment in the Quebec town in July.
Rail cars carrying goods such as spent sulphuric acid, ammonium nitrate and oil are already labelled, said Grant.
"Is this going to lead to letting municipalities have some, at least input?"
Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside, who is a vice-president with the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, says the new rules won't allay all concerns.
He says they are just part of the push by Canadian towns and cities for improved rail safety.
But he does think they are a positive step.
"It does give us the information that I think is necessary to provide to our first responders to be trained properly, to respond safely, and to have the equipment to do it. Right now we don't have that," Woodside said.
"We just want to ensure that our first responders have the knowledge and the training and equipment necessary to be able to deal with these situations."
After Lac-Mégantic, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities formed a rail safety working group to push for improved safety in and around municipalities.
Rail companies currently disclose their cargo to emergency responders, but not to communities.
A spokesperson for NB Southern Railway says it has held safety sessions this year with several towns and cities along the tracks.
The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic was carrying a shipment of crude oil destined for the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John.
In recent years, much of the oil that comes from the western provinces and is processed at the Saint John refinery is delivered by train.
The number of trains carrying oil into the city has more than doubled since the company built a new rail terminal last year.
The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic was carrying 72 tankers full of crude oil causing a series of explosions that killed 47 people and ripped the small community apart.
The federal government will pay as much as 50 per cent of the decontamination costs in Lac-Mégantic, Que., to a maximum of $95 million, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in the town Thursday. The Quebec government has estimated the cleanup costs at $190 million.