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Transport Canada: Dangerous goods recommendations under study

Agency’s announcement follows audit findings suggesting Transport Canada failed to fully implement several safety recommendations from past years

Transport Canada says its supports research on dangerous goods. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Transport Canada insists that it supports research involving the safe transportation of dangerous goods.

The federal agency said Tuesday that 23 projects continue to research the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada. Topics for the 23 projects, which will be implemented from 2020 to 2023, were developed during the 2019 Transportation of Dangerous Goods Research Symposium. Project funding of CA$3.6 million (US$2.7 million) came from court settlements paid largely by Irving Oil and were related to the fatal July 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail accident.

The announcement comes as the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development late last month released the results of an audit asserting that Transport Canada hasn’t done enough to address the safety issues raised in transportation accidents. The fall 2020 report itself is a follow-up on recommendations issued to Transport Canada via government reports in 2011 and 2015. 

Of the 23 projects, six will proceed in 2021, with funding for the six projects estimated at $900,000. 

The project topics are: the validation of recommended emergency actions for liquefied natural gas in the Emergency Response Guidebook; a comprehensive review of the criteria and thresholds for emergency response assistance plans in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations; an evaluation of any risks resulting from hydrogen being transported to hydrogen-vehicle fueling stations; a hazard assessment of energy storage systems being transported in enclosed vessels for marine transport; the development of a geographic risk assessment methodology for moving dangerous goods by road; and the development of a smart package for lithium battery transportation that indicates warnings about issues inside the package.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said when it released its audit in October that Transport Canada didn’t always follow up with companies to ensure they addressed violations, nor did it always grant final approval to some companies’ emergency response assistance plans. 

The report doesn’t separate the recommendations by transportation mode, although it cited some specific examples, such as determining that Transport Canada didn’t fully follow through with its recommendations related to its risk-scoring system involving loading railway tank cars.

“We found that the department still had not followed up on some violations or granted final approval to many emergency response assistance plans,” the report said. “We also found that, although Transport Canada implemented our recommendation to develop a national risk-based system to prioritize its inspections, the underlying data was incomplete and outdated. Transport Canada has more progress to make to address the problems we identified in order to support the safe transportation of dangerous goods.”

According to last month’s report, Transport Canada said it would follow up on the issues raised by the audit.

The audit, which was prepared for Parliament, was conducted from April 2018 to March 2019. The report was concluded in March 2020 but was made public last month.

Per the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act of 1992, Transport Canada must conduct inspections of facilities and sites that handle, offer for transport, transport or import dangerous goods; carry out investigations and enforcement actions to ensure compliance; and approve emergency response assistance plans for regulated companies, according to the audit. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.