Canada’s oil-by-rail exports have recently skyrocketed, from about 16,000 barrels a day in early 2012 to almost 150,000 barrels a day by December 2013. The risks of this increase are worrisome, especially in light of the Lac-Mégantic derailment and subsequent explosion that took over 40 lives. As we remember and honor those lives lost one year ago, it is paramount that safety be placed above all else.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced in April that 5,000 unsafe tankers were to be removed from Canadian railways within 30 days, and another 65,000 are to be removed or retrofitted within three years. Additionally, Transport Canada issued a “protective direction” requiring emergency response assistance plans for crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and ethanol transport. The railways also introduced a rate structure which they hope will encourage crude oil shippers to work toward an upgraded tank car standard.
As crude oil production increases, and existing pipeline capacity diminishes, energy companies are being forced to rely heavily on railway transportation for delivery. While Canada has one of the largest rail networks in the world, there are concerns over whether or not it can safely accommodate the increase in demand.