Canadian Manufacturing

Stakes are high as Senate tables study on safe hydrocarbon transport

The study, launched last November, comes weeks after an oil-laden freight train jumped the tracks and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic

OTTAWA—The Senate is set to present its findings on the safe transport of hydrocarbons by pipelines, tankers and rail cars in Canada.

The report calls on Ottawa to commission an independent review of the regulations and industry practices of the country’s railways.

“Each major incident, whether in Canada or beyond our borders, must be carefully examined to learn what went wrong so that steps can be taken to prevent similar accidents in the future,” the document says.

The Senate committee also notes that Transport Canada has yet to implement all the recommendations from a December 2011 report by former environment commissioner Scott Vaughan on transporting dangerous goods by rail.

Other recommendations relate to marine and pipeline safety. The report mentions the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Trans Mountain expansion project as two routes intended to carry oil to the West Coast.

“We’ve been working on these issues for the last nine months and the shocking Lac-Megantic rail disaster has only intensified the need to address hydrocarbon transportation safety,” Conservative Sen. Richard Neufeld, chair of the Senate energy committee, said in a statement.

“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 study, launched last November, comes weeks after an oil-laden freight train jumped the tracks and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

The disaster, which killed 47 people and led to a mass evacuation in the community of 6,000, has since prompted a criminal investigation and several lawsuits.

The study is also being released as Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. holds consultations over its proposed west-east oil pipeline.

The $12-billion Energy East pipeline would carry western crude oil all the way to the East Coast.

The company plans to convert roughly 3,000 kilometres of its natural gas main line to ship oil from Alberta to Quebec and build an additional 1,400 kilometres of new pipe to Saint John, N.B.

From there, the crude could feed Irving Oil’s massive refinery and be shipped offshore.

However, critics of the proposed pipeline say the potential environmental risks are too great.

The Senate declined to comment on the report ahead of its release.

Conservative Sen. Richard Neufeld and Liberal senators Grant Mitchell and Paul Massicotte will be on hand today to present the report’s findings.

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