Revelstoke Mayor David Raven says new federal rules that require rail companies to disclose hazardous cargos to municipalities are a step in the right direction, but more details are needed.
“The devil is always in the details,” Raven said following the Nov. 20 announcement from the federal Ministry of Transportation, which requires rail companies to disclose the nature and volume of dangerous goods to municipalities on an annual basis.
Rail companies will also be required to list in their annual reports quarterly breakdowns of hazardous materials shipped.
Critics called for more detailed disclosures; the Revelstoke mayor said city leaders will have to wait and see how the system works.
“Because you are on the CPR mainline, you can pretty much assume everything goes through here,” Raven noted.
He said the city’s emergency preparedness program and fire department were well-prepared to deal with rail emergencies – such as the fire on the rail bridge over the Columbia River in May of 2013.
However, any municipality of our size would struggle to deal with a large-scale disaster, such as the July Lac-Mégantic derailment, that killed 47 and devastated the Quebec town’s core with explosions and fire.
“How do you prepare for that? So quick and so devastating,” Raven said. “You prepare for the extent that you can, but you can’t, because of the nature of what’s going across the railways, it’s hard to be prepared for every conceivable emergency.”
Raven said, in his opinion, dangerous goods transportation on the Trans-Canada Highway was “of even greater concern.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) represents municipal governments at the federal level. The organization pushed for changes to disclosure rules following the Lac-Mégantic derailment disaster.
FCM president Claude Dauphin welcomed the new rules:
“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. The Lac-Mégantic tragedy, and recent derailments in other parts of the country, have underscored the critical role that municipalities play in planning for and responding to rail emergencies involving dangerous goods.”