The federal government announced Thursday that Transport Minister Marc Garneau has endorsed an online awareness tool for handling flammable liquid emergencies.
The tool was developed by Enform, a group of six oil and gas industry associations.
That tool “helps first responders to assess hazards at the scene, to know who to contact and what resources are available, and to understand how to respond appropriately and safely,” Transport Canada stated in a release.
The tool “addresses knowledge gaps identified by the Transport Canada’s Emergency Response Task Force following requests from municipalities and first responders in the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy,” Transport Canada stated.
On July 5, 2013, a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) Railway train hauling 72 tanker cars with crude oil was stopped for the night near Nantes, about 180 kilometres south of Quebec City. Early the following morning, the unattended train started to move downhill, picked up speed and 63 tanker cars derailed in Lac-Mégantic. Forty-seven were killed.
The following August, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada published its investigation report on the tragedy. That report included 18 findings as to causes and contributing factors.
MMA “never assessed the risks of leaving a train carrying crude oil unattended, on a downhill grade, with no other precautions taken to prevent the train from running uncontrolled, other than the assumed correct application of the handbrakes,” Don Mustard, senior investigator for rail and pipelines at TSB, said Oct. 8. 2015 during the 42nd Annual Engineering Insurance Conference, which is part of the Canadian Boiler & Machinery Underwriters Association (CB&MUA).
In August, 2013, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) had suspended MMA’s certificate of fitness effective August 20, finding that MMA had not demonstrated that its third-party liability insurance “is adequate for ongoing operations.” At the time, railway operators had to be covered for third-party liability, third-party bodily injury or death, but each railway had its insurance coverage reviewed – on a case by case basis – by CTA.
Court records indicate that MMA was insured by XL Insurance Company Ltd. (for evacuation expenses, fire suppression expenses, pollution clean-up expenses, bodily injury and property damage) and by an inland marine policy written by Traveler’s Property and Casualty Company of America for property, rolling stock, track and repairs and business interruption.
In June, 2015, a bill establishing minimum mandatory insurance levels for railroad operators – Bill C-52, the Safe and Accountable Rail Act – was passed into law. So railways carrying “significant volumes of dangerous goods” require $1 billion in insurance limits, including coverage for the risk associated with a leak, pollution or contamination,” a Conservative MP said during the last session of Parliament.
In November, 2013, Lisa Raitt – then the Conservative Minister of Transport – created a working group to on the requirement for emergency response assistance plans (ERAPs) for crude oil and other liquids.
That task force later recommended a training program comprised, in part, of a web-based program with modular content and an examination component.
The task force “has worked diligently to examine 650 flammable liquids in Canada and has provided over 33 safety recommendations to date, with more expected this May,” Transport Canada noted March 17 in a release.