A lawsuit and other legal battles. The final Transportation Safety Board report. Insurance rules. New tank cars. Kim Mackrael looks at other issues as criminal charges are filed.
Ongoing legal battles
Peter Flowers, a lawyer who represents 41 families affected by the tragedy in a lawsuit against MM&A railway and other companies, said he views the criminal charges as good news. “But it’s really a first step. There are other parties that need to be held responsible,” he said, pointing to oil companies and rail-car manufacturers as two examples. A separate class-action lawsuit was also filed in Canada last year.
In addition, the province of Quebec ordered MM&A, Canadian Pacific, and three oil companies to pay for the clean-up work related to the accident. The companies contested the order, and the matter is now before a Quebec tribunal. Clean-up and decontamination costs have been estimated at $200-million.
Transportation Safety Board investigation
The TSB is preparing a final investigation report that will look in detail at how the accident in Lac-Mégantic occurred and may provide additional recommendations for avoiding similar incidents. The agency has already released several interim recommendations during the past year, prompting new federal rules for emergency response planning and tank car construction, among others. A spokesperson for the TSB said on Tuesday that the investigation is now in its final phase, which involves writing and producing its report on the accident.
After the derailment in Lac-Mégantic, the federal government announced that it would require shippers and railways to carry more insurance to deal with major accidents. MM&A did not have enough insurance to deal with the costs of the disaster in Lac-Mégantic, which will likely run into the billions of dollars when lawsuits and the clean-up effort are taken into account. (MM&A filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors last year and its assets have since been sold to another U.S.-based company). The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has advocated for a pooled insurance system that could be drawn upon in the event of another similar disaster.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced new rules last month affecting the kinds of tanker cars that can be used to carry crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail. Older-model DOT-111 tank cars, which are commonly used to carry crude in North America, have been criticized for years as prone to puncture and corrosion. Within the next three years, industry will no longer be permitted to use the older-model tank cars to carry dangerous goods through Canada by rail.
The United States Transportation Department recently sent proposals on tank car standards to the White House, but new regulations are not expected to come into force in the U.S. before the end of this year.