March 27th, 2014
A particular source of criticism is outdated DOT-111 rail cars like this one, which when carrying crude oil are considered an “unacceptable public risk,” according to a member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Two Toronto councillors want the federal government to stop freight rail owners from keeping the frequency and amount of potentially dangerous materials travelling through densely populated neighbourhoods a secret.
“We are simply asking for basic information …like the types of hazardous materials and the volume — for all residents, not only those who live along the railway lines,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who will table a motion at next week’s council meeting.
Last week, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt defended companies such as Canadian National and Canadian Pacific for not releasing details about hazardous goods moving through Toronto.
“It’s balancing safety and security with the need to know and the ability to respond,” Raitt told reporters in Toronto. First responders and municipalities need to know about hazardous goods to prepare for an emergency, but the goods should not be listed on a publicly accessible database, she argued.
“If there is a security concern, then the rationale needs to be explained and reasonable people will listen, but that hasn’t happened,” Matlow said Thursday.
“We shouldn’t be giving out schedules for exactly when and where various hazardous materials are going to be going through municipalities. That’s not we’re asking for,” he said.
Matlow’s motion points out there’s been a “significant increase” in the number of trains carrying crude oil over the past five years, from 500 carloads in 2009 to an estimated 140,000 last year.
That increase has taken place without any consultation or public notices, says the motion, which is being seconded by Councillor Adam Vaughan.
Many of the trains in question use the Canadian Pacific rail line that, in Toronto, runs from the Junction neighbourhood along Dupont St. and east through Scarborough.
After last summer’s derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., that killed 47 people, CN began providing municipal officials with lists of dangerous goods being transported by rail. But the city won’t make this information public.
“They’re not allowed to,” Matlow said. “The reality is it is the proprietary information of CN, which has not given city permission to share with the public.”
Matlow’s motion also asks Ottawa to phase out DOT 111 tanker cars within two years that do not meet the safety standards mandated by the Association of American Railroads on Oct. 1, 2011. In her speech, Raitt said there was no question that Canada must get rid of those oil tanker cars.
Matlow said he’s optimistic Raitt will hear council’s concerns if the motion is adopted, as he expects.
“The government is going to have to make a decision about whose side they’re on,” he said.
To read this article in it’s current for, click here.