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Federal unit ‘most likely’ needs more funding if emergency response plans mandated for flammable liquids transported by rail: Report


February 18, 2014   by Canadian Underwriter


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A report recently submitted to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt notes that shipments of crude oil by rail have “risen exponentially” in recent years and but that the federal organization responsible for guidance on transportation of dangerous goods may not have enough resources to maintain existing response plans.

“Continuing budget reductions have had a major impact on the (Transportation of Dangerous Goods) Directorate and it is most likely that new funding will be needed to manage the additional work load that will result if (Emergency Response Assistance Plans) are legislated for flammable liquids,” according to the report and recommendations of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods General Policy Advisory Council (GPAC) Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) Working Group Relating to Class 3 Flammable Liquids. “It is not clear if the TDG Directorate presently has sufficient resources to approve, inspect and maintain the ERAPs that are now in place or new ones that will result if flammable liquids become ERAPable.”

Working group releases report on transporting dangerous goods by rail

That report was delivered to Raitt Jan. 31 The working group included 15 associations, including the Canadian Associate of Fire Chiefs and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

In an appendix to the report, FCM noted it wants to “prevent downloading of rail safety and emergency response costs” to local taxpayers.

“Third-party liability insurance systems must be strengthened to prevent the downloading of liability costs on taxpayers, even in the event of bankruptcies,” FCM stated.

The report noted that an ERAP “describes what is to be done in the event of a transportation accident involving certain higher risk dangerous goods” and is required for items “that require special expertise and response equipment to respond to an incident.”

An ERAP “is intended to assist local emergency responders by providing them with technical experts and specially trained and equipped emergency response personnel at the scene of an incident,” the report noted.

The working group, established last November, was “tasked to examine the possibility of extending the ERAP program to include flammable liquids such as crude oil or to recommend other viable emergency response solutions to accomplish a similar goal of ensuring access to appropriate response capability and specialized supplies.”

Last summer, the working group noted, the fire service of Lac- Mégantic, Quebec got assistance “from numerous fire departments in Quebec and the State of Maine” after a train carrying crude oil derailed and killed 47.

“The large volume of fire and the heat generated created tremendous safety risks for these firefighters,” the working group stated. “After 20 hours, the center of the fire was still inaccessible to firefighters and pools of fuel were still burning. Firefighting foam was brought from an Ultramar refinery in Lévis Quebec and was used to control remaining fire and suppress vapors from unburned crude oil. The Chaudière River was contaminated by hundreds of thousands of liters of oil as was the sewer system and soil in the vicinity of the derailment.”

The working group recommended that regulations “be revised to clarify who has the authority to activate an ERAP and that first responders be authorized to request CANUTEC to activate an ERAP if it is not done by the carrier in a timely manner.”

It also recommended that data be collected to identify “communities at risk along dangerous goods transportation corridors,” to identify “existing flammable liquids firefighting resources by geographic area” and to identify “gaps that exist and additional resources required.”

In 2009, the report noted, Class 1 railways in Canada moved about 500 carloads of crude oil but that volume has increased to 130,000 to 140,000 carloads a year.

“Because of the lack of pipelines or pipeline capacity the transportation of crude oil by rail has become an important means of moving this product to refineries,” according to the report. “Information from the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) indicates that shipments of crude by rail have risen exponentially in recent years.”