Canada looks to require emergency response plans for oil by rail

Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:25pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA Dec 13 (Reuters) - Canada is looking at classifying crude oil as a higher-risk dangerous good requiring emergency response plans for shipping by rail following a train accident that leveled the heart of a Quebec town in July, a government official said on Friday.

The federal government's transport department will draft proposed regulations in February to require emergency response assistance plans for the transportation of crude oil, said Jan O'Driscoll, a spokesman for Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

The derailment of a runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July killed 47 people in North America's deadliest rail accident in two decades.

The accident heightened attention on the oil-by-rail sector, which has grown enormously in the last several years as pipelines failed to keep pace with rapidly rising oil production in Alberta, North Dakota and elsewhere.

The new regulations would require a detailed plan for how a shipper would respond to an accident. Such plans would not deal with whether oil tanker cars should be strengthened and would not prevent oil from moving through cities and towns.

A federal working group that includes representatives from the oil and rail industries and from the municipalities is to recommend by the end of January what would be needed in such emergency plans.

The government expects to draft proposed regulations the following month. It is possible different emergency plans would be required for different kinds of crude, depending on the volatility of the oil.

The accident in Lac-Megantic resulted in putting the railway responsible, the Montreal Maine & Atlantic, into bankruptcy protection.