Community groups call on federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to require environmental assessments of oil-by-rail terminals

CALGARY – Oil-by-rail facilities in Canada are not required to undergo environmental assessments, but they should be, in order to address public safety and environmental concerns, say community groups.

“Every day unassessed oil-by-rail facilities put communities across the country at risk,” said Charles Hatt, Ecojustice lawyer. “With a stroke of her pen, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has the power to fix this blind spot in our law and require all oil-by-rail projects undergo an environmental assessment before they are built or expanded.”

Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of Greenpeace and Safe Rail Communities, are calling on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to designate all oil-by-rail facilities for an environmental assessment — allowing for public safety concerns and environmental impacts to be addressed.

“Canada’s capacity for shipping and receiving oil-by-rail has swelled in recent years, but no project has undergone a federal environmental assessment that looks at public safety issues or environmental impacts,” said Helen Vassilakos, Safe Rail Communities. “We’re asking the Minister of Environment for one small change that could make rail communities across the country safer.”

Since 2013, approximately a dozen oil trains have exploded in the United States and Canada alone, including the tragic explosion and fire in Lac Mégantic, Quebec that left 47 people dead. It is estimated that oil train traffic has grown from approximately 500 rail cars in 2009 to 140,000 cars in 2014.

“Oil train traffic has increased exponentially in recent years, and with it has come a rise in the number of explosive derailments. They present a huge risk to our environment and the communities that lie along these tracks,” said Keith Stewart, Greenpeace. “The Minister must act to safeguard our communities and our environment by ensuring oil-by-rail projects are assessed for their potential impacts.”