11/24/2013 15:06 EST | Updated 01/24/2014 05:59 EST

Fernie, B.C., lauds new rail disclosure rules

The mayor of Fernie, B.C., is lauding a recent announcement by the federal government that certain rail companies will be required to tell municipalities when dangerous goods are being transported through their communities.  

“I witnessed trains go by daily, and never thought about it much,” says Fernie mayor Mary Giuliano.

 “After what happened in Quebec – my goodness I’ve given it lots of thought.”

Trains pass through the historic downtown core of Fernie every day, similar to the tracks that once ran through Lac-Mégantic, Que., before it was levelled and 47 people were killed after run-away rail cars exploded in the centre of town.

On Nov. 20, federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced that Canadian Class 1 railway companies, including CN and CP, have to provide municipalities with detailed dangerous goods information every three months.

Other companies transporting dangerous goods will be required to provide information on an annual basis, though neither group must provide the information in advance. The data is intended to help municipalities carry out accurate risk assessments and lay out clear emergency response plans.

Giuliano says her staff is currently reviewing how the changes might impact Fernie, and so is Teck Resources — the largest employer in the Kootenays.

Teck relies upon train cars transporting material to and from their large smelter in Trail, B.C.

“Under these new rules, we’ll definitely be reviewing to ensure everything we bring in and out that needs to be disclosed is done so," says Teck official Richard Dean. 

While stakeholders in other provinces have criticized the policy changes — saying they fall short in protecting rail communities — Giuliano says the “disclosure is really welcome by residents and staff.”