Canada can move faster than U.S. on oil rail cars: minister

Fri Apr 4, 2014 12:03pm EDT
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada can move faster than the United States to stop the use of older rail tanker cars for carrying crude oil, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Friday, adding that the government is under pressure after last July's fiery derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people.

Raitt has stressed that the rail industry is deeply integrated across Canada and the United States, making it difficult to make unilateral regulatory changes, though she implied on Friday that Canada may take at least some steps on its own.

"It really is about making sure that we have an effort that makes sense on a North American basis, understanding what the timeline is in the United States, which is longer than ours," she told reporters in Toronto.

"We have the ability to move more quickly in Canada by virtue of our system, and we don't have a prescribed method of rule-making that they do in the United States."

She did not make clear whether she was talking about requiring an earlier phase-out of the older tanker cars, the DOT-111 model, than in the United States, or allowing and encouraging rail and oil companies to take steps to discourage their use.

The older DOT-111 tank cars, built before October 2011, are considered more prone to puncture than newer models. The train that derailed in Quebec in last July's disaster, which leveled the heart of the town of Lac-Megantic, was comprised of DOT-111 tankers.

Since October 2011, tank cars have been built to a safer standard known as the CPC 1232 design, with reinforced outer shells and protective shields. American and Canadian officials have been working on an even tougher standard, but Canadian Pacific Railway President Keith Creel said this process could take 12 to 18 months to finish.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the two big Canadian railways are exerting pressure for a speedy phase-out of the DOT-111s. The railroads are required to haul old cars loaded by shippers as long as the equipment conforms to regulations.   Continued...

Canada's Transport Minister Lisa Raitt speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie