train safety

Council backs call for railway safety inquiry

Concerns raised about transport of flammable products

The District of Houston has added its voice to calls wanting an inquiry into safety along the CN line in the northwest in light of increasing shipments of propane and other flammable products.

The inquiry call, being made to federal transport minister Marc Garneau, follows correspondence from two local residents.

Carlie Kearns and Cindy Verbeek, the project coordinator for the Buck Creek CANFOR Hatchery, noted that 50 to 60 propane tank cars are now travelling each day to a Prince Rupert terminal owed by AltaGas and Vopak Canada, a subsidiary of a Dutch company of the same name.

Vopak now wants another terminal at Prince Rupert, this time one that can handle 240 rail cars a day of various fuel products. And a Vancouver-based company called Pacific Traverse Energy is advancing on a plan to build an export facility at Kitimat accepting 50 to 60 rail cars a day of liquefied petroleum products.

“The extent of the area to be evacuated in the event of a potential propane explosion from a derailment in Houston would include all of the downtown area including the firehall, schools, ambulance, Health Centre and Search and Rescue,” noted Kearns and Verbeek in their correspondence to council.

Council considered the request at its Oct. 6 meeting, agreeing to write Garneau requesting a risk assessment under the Railway Safety Act.

Council’s move follows along with its continued lobbying over the years for safety improvements and other measures at level crossings within the community.

Just this year the District applied for federal money to install crossing arms and warning signals at the Benson Ave. crossing. That application is for $255,230 which would be matched by the District’s own money.

A similar request made to the Terrace city council last month for a letter to be sent to Garneau was rejected.

The North West Watch Society told Terrace city council that mandatory environmental impact assessments of the proposed export projects would not extend to consider the rail lines upon which goods for the proposed projects would travel.

“The only environmental assessment that’s being done is for the propane terminals themselves, so the transport of dangerous goods along the river, through towns, through avalanche zones and flood zones is not being considered in this environmental assessment,” society representative Anne Hill told council.

“I think this is just an effort to stall projects, move goal posts and use city council as a political tool to make a political statement on this project,” Terrace city councillor James Cordeiro said during debate regarding the request.

(with files from Jake Wray)

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