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Canadian investigators seize records from Irving Oil over Lac-Mégantic disaster

16 December 2013

Inspectors from Transport Canada executed a search warrant and seized records from the headquarters of Irving Oil in New Brunswick as part of the ongoing investigation into the Lac-Mégantic  train derailment,  which killed 47 people last July. The train was hauling crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Irving’s refinery when it crashed, causing massive explosions that destroyed whole blocks of the town centre.

The Lac-Mégantic train crash killed 47 - Photo: TSBC
The Lac-Mégantic train crash killed 47 - Photo: TSBC

Court documents filed in support of the search warrant indicate Irving is under investigation to determine whether it followed safety and security rules for importing dangerous goods and whether those goods were accompanied by proper documentation.

Bakken-sourced oil is much more explosive and corrosive than regulators and the industry initially thought, and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has said she will implement new safety and testing measures for shipping crude oil by rail.

The Transportation Safety Board has said that the oil that exploded in Lac-Mégantic was more volatile than the paperwork for the train suggested. Federal regulations say that when dangerous goods are brought into Canada, domestic importers are responsible for ensuring safety rules are followed. Penalties for contravening the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act are up to two years in prison or $50,000 for a first offence.

Raitt has set up three working groups to look at, among other things, how crude oil is classified.

Crude oil is currently listed as a flammable substance rather than a highly explosive one, and this could change as a result of the review.

Another working group is examining whether companies should be required to have emergency response assistance plans for the shipment of crude oil, similar to Canadian regulations on the transport of hazardous goods. These require specialised response teams along the route in case there is an accident.

The working groups will report back with recommendations in January. The department will then come up with proposed regulations for consultation in February.

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