In its latest report, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is calling on Canada’s federal government to initiate a major arm’s-length review of the country’s railway regulatory framework, standards and industry practices to meaningfully advance the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail in Canada. The report provides 13 recommendations related to energy transport by transmission pipelines, tankers and railcars.
“The goal of our study was to examine the current state of emergency and spill prevention, preparedness and response frameworks under federal authority and to make recommendations to improve public safety and the protection of the environment,” said Senator Richard Neufeld, chair of the committee. “We’ve been working on these issues for the last nine months and the shocking Lac-Mégantic rail disaster has only intensified the need to address hydrocarbon transportation safety. In the years ahead, hydrocarbon production will continue to grow and so will transport capacity. That’s why we believe Canadians need to know more about what the federal government has in place to protect citizens and the environment, and what more can be done to enhance current practices.”
The report calls on Transport Canada to implement all the recommendations from the December 2011 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development related to the transport of dangerous goods. Additionally it recommends Transport Canada, in cooperation with its U.S regulatory counterpart to find ways to accelerate the phase-out of the CTC-111A and DOT-111 tank cars. Finally the report calls on Transport Canada to apply minimum liability coverage thresholds to rail companies to ensure they have the financial capacity to cover damages caused by a major accident.
Five recommendations in the report relate to marine spill response, including a proposal that the federal government provide umbrella responder immunity protection to Canadian marine response organizations for all non-ship source spills including marine spills from pipelines, trains and trucks.
“Transportation systems operate within a highly regulated environment. There are extensive regulatory frameworks, management systems, standards and practices all serving to promote safety,” said Senator Grant Mitchell, deputy chair of the committee. “We heard a lot of testimony which should give Canadians confidence, but the reality is that the transportation of hydrocarbons can never be completely without risk. It is my hope that at the very least, Lac-Mégantic can invoke an Exxon Valdez response, where we carefully and thoroughly examine what went wrong so that any improvements that need to be made, can be made quickly."
General : That the National Energy Board and Transport Canada create a web portal that includes interactive maps indicating detailed information on spills and incidents for pipelines, tankers and railcars, such as the types of product released and, as soon as possible, the cause of the incident.
Pipelines : That the National Energy Board work in partnership with regulated companies and experts in safety culture to develop a program for the mandatory auditing of safety culture.
That the federal government facilitate efforts to establish a national access point for information on the location of buried infrastructure, as well as the promotion of one-call centers and call-before-you-dig initiatives. Information on the coordinates of underground infrastructure should be consulted prior to any excavation activities by a third party.
Tankers : That the Transportation Safety Board expand and modernize its database to provide detailed information on ship-sourced spills, including the type of ship and the volume and type of product released.
That the current spill preparedness and response capacity of 10,000 tonnes within prescribed timeframes be adjusted upwards to fit the assessed needs of each region as determined by Transport Canada.
That the federal government provide umbrella responder immunity protection to Canadian marine response organizations for all non-ship source spills including marine spills from pipelines, trains and trucks.
That the Canadian Coast Guard’s mandated spill preparedness and response capabilities be certified by Transport Canada or an arm’s-length agency periodically.
The committee believes that, in certain areas and under specified circumstances, certified marine response organizations should be pre-approved to use dispersant, initiate controlled burning and take other prescribed counter-measures when it yields a net environmental benefit.
Rail : That Transport Canada work in partnership with railway companies to make existing safety culture assessments mandatory within its audit program.
That the federal government initiate a major arm’s-length review of the country’s railway regulatory framework, standards and industry practices to meaningfully advance the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail in Canada.
That Transport Canada review, in cooperation with the United States Department of Transportation, the use of CTC-111A and DOT-111 tank cars and consider accelerating the transition to the revised standard.
That Transport Canada implement all the recommendations from the December 2011 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development related to the transport of dangerous goods by rail.
That Transport Canada apply appropriate minimum liability coverage thresholds to ensure rail companies have the financial capacity to cover damages caused by a major incident.