Canada looks to require emergency response plans for oil by rail

Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:44pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is considering classifying crude oil as a higher-risk, dangerous product requiring emergency response plans for shipment 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 said.

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 recent years as pipelines have 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 railroad 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.

Separately, investigators from Raitt's department searched the Saint John, New Brunswick, offices of refiner Irving Oil on Friday as part of a probe of whether rail safety rules had been followed ahead of the Lac-Megantic disaster. The train that derailed had been destined for Irving's refinery in Saint John.

Ashley Kelahear, a spokeswoman for Raitt, declined to give more details.

An Irving spokeswoman confirmed government investigators had made requests regarding its operations. "We continue to fully cooperate with them, complying with all requests for information. Operations remain normal," said Samantha Robinson.   Continued...

A tanker with an inscription which reads, "empty and inspected", is pictured on the rail track in Lac-Megantic, November 21, 2013. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger