Press-Republican

March 12, 2014

Canadian Pacific talks safety

LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — Canadian Pacific Railway says that because of national security considerations, it can’t tell the public exactly what it would do at a rail disaster.

The railroad has an emergency-response plan that spells out how it would handle a derailment or accident, but what actions that would entail are not public information, Railway Director of Government and Public Affairs Randy Marsh said at a forum Tuesday.

The session in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown was attended by dozens of town officials and emergency first-responders.

Marsh said Canadian Pacific is serious about emergency planning.

“Canadian Pacific does have an emergency-response plan. It’s an organic document that’s modified over time. I can’t share that with you, but every municipality should have an emergency-response plan.”

DENSITY REPORTS

Local fire chiefs can get density reports of the most recent six months of rail traffic in their jurisdiction, he said, information not available to the public.

“That information is shared on a need-to-know basis for national security reasons. Our goal is a response time of under an hour (to an incident).

“We do operate in some remote territory, but we have set up our network in such a way that we can respond.”

He said Canadian Pacific has a command center with a 24/7 on-call response system.

CUSTOMERS OWN CARS

Marsh said there has been concern about tank car trains moving through the region.

“Railroads don’t own the rail cars that are operated on their networks. Tank cars are owned principally by customers or companies that support those customers.”

In the case of the oil cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota to the Port of Albany, they are owned by the shipper hired by the oil companies.

“Security is a big issue today,” Marsh said. “There are people out there that want to do harm. It is a major concern for communities that people who want to do us harm are not in a position to do so.”

SAFER CARS AHEAD

There is a new generation of safer tank cars coming into use.

“The recent changes in 2011 have made them more robust,” Marsh said. “The car vessel itself is quite robust. It can be moved safely by being dragged out of the area.”

The older DOT-111 standard tank cars are single wall, while DOT-112 and DOT-109 are stronger and have two walls.

“We know what we moved today,” Marsh said. “We have no idea what customers are going to move tomorrow. There are only a certain number of tank cars out there.”

He said Canadian Pacific is committed to getting the old tank cars out of service.

‘DEEMED UNSAFE’

Warrensburg resident Robert Bradley was at the forum to ask for safer transportation of the Bakken Shale crude from North Dakota.

“I’m very concerned about the safety of the cars,” Bradley said. “The DOT-111 cars have been deemed unsafe. They weren’t meant to haul crude oil, which is what they’re being used for.”

Marsh said Canadian Pacific has been firm that the 111 cars need to be dealt with.

“It’s not something a common carrier can say because they are fully approved cars. If we do (refuse the old cars), we will have orders issued against us.

“It’s something the federal government needs to do.”

A train of crude-oil cars derailed in a small Quebec town last year and exploded, causing numerous fatalities and destroying the town’s business district.

“Since the tragedy in Canada, we’ve increased our safety, our rules around those cars,” railway representative Ed Greenberg said.

Bradley said there have been many rail accidents with the oil cars.

“The one in Quebec wiped out most of the town and killed 47 people,” he said. “Essex County has many people. Every one of those lives is important.”

Bradley pointed out 92,000 DOT-111 cars are still in service.

Marsh said Canadian Pacific agrees the DOT-111 cars should not be used and has imposed a $325 surcharge per shipment on the old cars.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com