Fall Out from Lac-Mégantic Disaster

Fall Out from Lac-Mégantic Disaster


North Dakota is now the second largest oil-producing state in the USA (second to Texas) but the lack of pipelines means that over two-thirds of the oil is transported by rail. The increased volume of crude oil transported by rail from the Bakken region, coupled with recent disasters at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec (which killed 47 people) and Lynchburg, Virginia (that spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River) has resulted in regulatory changes in Canada and the USA.

Regulators in the US have responded by:

  • Requiring all railroads operating trains containing more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil to give State Emergency Response Commissions advance notice of trains travelling through the State. Specialised training has also been provided for fire fighters and first responders.
  • Recommending that older DOT 111 and CTC 111 tank cars are not used to ship crude oil.
  • Recommending that freight trains are operated by a minimum of two crew members to reduce the risk from human error.
  • Evaluating ways of reducing the volatility of the oil.

Earlier in the year, the Canadians also strengthened existing regulatory powers by introducing fines for companies that:

  • Did not submit required safety management system information
  • Failing to provide proper notice prior before conducting certain types of rail work
  • Failing to have work approved by a professional engineer.