Government of Canada introduces legislation to strengthen rail safety and accountability; “polluter pays”
Canada’s Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, introduced legislation in the House of Commons that will enhance railway safety and make the rail industry and crude oil shippers more accountable. The new Safe and Accountable Rail Act proposes amendments to the Canada Transportation Act and Railway Safety Act. Changes include a new liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railways, including minimum insurance requirements; a compensation fund financed by levies on crude oil shippers; increased information-sharing provisions; and stronger oversight powers for the Minister and Transport Canada inspectors.
The Minister also announced the new Railway Safety Management System (SMS) Regulations, 2015. SMS Regulations require companies to develop and implement a formal framework that integrates safety into their day-to-day operations. The new regulations will help address recommendations made in the November 2013 Auditor General’s report, and will reflect more than 10 years of lessons learned in providing oversight of railway safety management systems. The new SMS Regulations will be published in Canada Gazette, Part II on 25 February 2015, and will come into effect on 1 April 2015.
The Government said that the new liability and compensation regime will be consistent with those it has introduced for other modes of transport, such as marine tankers and oil pipelines. It is based on the “polluter pays” principle and makes railways and shippers responsible for the cost of accidents, protecting taxpayers and communities by ensuring that adequate resources are available for compensation if an accident were to occur.
Proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act provide the Minister with the authority to issue a Ministerial Order requiring a company to take corrective measures if it is believed to be implementing its SMS in a way that could compromise railway safety.
Federal railway companies must obtain and maintain legislated minimum levels of insurance based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they carry. Minimum insurance levels will vary from $25 million for no or low quantities of dangerous goods up to a maximum of $1 billion for substantial quantities.
Shippers of crude oil will be required to pay a levy per tonne of crude oil shipped to build up a supplementary fund to pay for damages exceeding a railway’s minimum insurance level if an accident involving crude oil occurs.
These changes are part of the Government’s efforts to strengthen oversight and increase collaboration between communities and the rail industry, addressing issues raised in the Transportation Safety Board’s final report on the Lac-Mégantic derailment as well as concerns of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.