The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has advised the municipality of Havelock, in the province of Quebec, and other municipalities to register with its transport agency so they can receive the annual reports on dangerous goods transportation by rail. This followed an announcement made by Transport Canada recently about a new regulation requiring railroads to share information on hazardous materials transportation with local municipalities.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says that this new regulation is an “important development for the municipal sector,” which has forwarded the FCM’s request including HBM. However, the FCM is surprised that only a few municipalities took the time to register. Daniel Rubinstein of the FCM said, “We have been informed that only a very few number of communities had registered as of the end of January.”
Meanwhile, FCM president Claude Dauphin said, “Railways are only required to share information with registered municipalities. The move by the federal government is “welcome news for Canadian communities.”
“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.” Dauphin added, “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.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been calling on the province of Ottawa to ensure that any information gap is closed, which was the reason that first responders in local communities were unable to plan for emergencies in railways properly.
The regulation requires all Canadian railway operators to provide emergency planners of municipalities and first responders with yearly information on the nature and quantity of hazardous goods transportation through various communities. Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and other large railway operators must submit annual reports with quarterly breakdowns of the type and volume of dangerous materials moved through Canadian provinces. Smaller railways are also told to make notifications to municipalities should there be any changes to the information given in their yearly reports.
Claude Dauphin, who is also the mayor of Lachine, commented about the railway gap before federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt announced the regulation.
“There are currently no statutory or regulatory provisions that require this type of information sharing between railway companies and communities,” Dauphin said. “Instead, information flow relies on individual relationships at the local level and therefore varies greatly from one community to the next. Local first responders must have access to information on dangerous goods that are going through their communities for them to be able to plan and respond effectively.”
HBM Councilor Barry Pomeroy said, “I don’t know if that applies to us or not because the trains aren’t running through. The buck stops here.”
Councilor Jim Martin also commented, “Just to be safe I think we should go through this and register.”
“As you say, the buck stops here. They stay here overnight. It’s nice to know there’s some paperwork here.”
Mayor Ron Gerow added that a lot of accidents have already happened on Canada’s railway systems. “I think it’s due diligence to register.”