Railways ordered to declare dangerous goods

New federal regulations mean CPR will have to tell East Kootenay communities what it is carrying on local tracks

Canadian Pacific will have to declare to the City of Cranbrook what dangerous goods pass through the city under new federal regulations announced last week.

Announced on Wednesday, Nov. 20, the regulations require railway companies to give municipalities a list every three months of the dangerous goods that have passed through the community, including the nature and volume of the goods.

Each day, sixteen trains pass through Cranbrook, but until now Canadian Pacific has resisted specifically stating what goods are in those trains, saying that it is for public safety reasons.

However, in 2012 Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services participated in a three-day training exercise with CP Rail where they talked about the different products passing through town. Now municipalities will be given that information.

The change comes after pressure on Transport Canada after the tragedy in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July, where a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in the centre of the town, killing 47 people.

“Local governments and first responders are the front line in keeping our communities safe, and we are ensuring they have the information they need about the dangerous goods being transported in their communities,”said Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked during the summer that Transport Canada improve safety for communities that have a railway running through them.

“(This) announcement is welcome news for Canadian communities,” said Claude Dauphin, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “It sends a clear message that the Government of Canada fully agrees that local governments need to know basic information about dangerous goods being transported through their communities.”

Rob Gay, Chair of the Regional District of East Kootenay board of directors, said that communities throughout the region will now re-examine response plans for a railway accident.

“People will be having a look at the emergency planning protocols once we get this information,” said Gay.

“I don’t know if we’ll be really surprised by what’s going through, but maybe the frequency.”

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has applauded the new directive in a statement released Nov. 21.

“We are pleased that the Minister of Transport has listened to the concerns and recommendations of the Fire Service and Canada’s municipalities and we welcome this significant step forward in improving Canada’s rail safety regulations,” read the statement.

“This announcement is an important step in the right direction and will help local Fire Chiefs and their municipalities by providing them with information on the dangerous goods travelling through their communities.”