08/22/2013 09:42 EDT | Updated 10/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Senate calls for railway changes in wake of Lac-Mégantic

A Senate committee study started long before the fatal Lac-Mégantic, Que., train disaster urges the federal government to launch a major review of Canada's railway regulations, to better ensure the safe transport of dangerous goods.

The report released Thursday by the energy, environment and natural resources committee contains 13 recommendations related to the transportation of goods by railways, pipelines and tankers.

Some of the key recommendations are:

- The federal government should launch an arm's-length review of the railway regulatory framework, standards and industry practices.

- Transport Canada should apply appropriate minimum liability coverage thresholds to ensure rail companies have the financial capacity to cover damages caused by a major incident.

- The National Energy Board and Transport Canada should create a web portal that includes interactive maps indicating detailed information on spills and incidents for pipelines, tankers and railcars. It should include the types of product released and the cause of the incident.

- The Transportation Safety Board should expand and modernize its database to provide detailed information on ship-sourced spills, including the type of ship, and the volume and type of product released.

In the Lac-Mégantic disaster, a total of 47 people were killed in the July 6 blasts after the train carrying crude oil derailed and set off a series of explosions.

The Senate committee members say the tragedy has drawn more attention to gaps in the system when it comes to the transportation of dangerous goods.

"The goal of our study was to examine the current state of emergency and spill prevention, preparedness and response frameworks under federal authority and to make recommendations to improve public safety and the protection of the environment," Senator Richard Neufeld, chair of the committee, said in a news release.

"We've been working on these issues for the last nine months and the shocking Lac-Mégantic rail disaster has only intensified the need to address hydrocarbon transportation safety."

More to come