Plans for oil terminal on Chaleur Bay raise rail safety concerns

20 10 2014

Project by Chaleur Terminals Inc. at Port of Belledune divides New Brunswick, Quebec communities

CBC News Posted: Oct 20, 2014 6:46 PM AT Last Updated: Oct 20, 2014 6:46 PM AT

Chaleur Terminals Inc. plans to build an oil terminal at the Port of Belledune and have it up and running by early 2015.

Chaleur Terminals Inc. plans to build an oil terminal at the Port of Belledune and have it up and running by early 2015. (Chaleur Terminals Inc.)

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A plan by Chaleur Terminals Inc. to build an oil terminal on Chaleur Bay is generating mixed reviews in the bordering provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec.

The project at the Port of Belledune, N.B., would bring an estimated 220 rail cars filled with Alberta oil through northern Quebec and New Brunswick towns every day.

The mayor of St-Alexis-des-Matapédia, Que., is calling for a moratorium on the project, which consists of a low speed rail circuit railway system, an oil terminal with eight 150,000- barrel steel tank storage facilities and a three-kilometre pipeline to transfer petroleum and refined products to marine vessels.

Guy Gallant, worries Canadian National Railways (CN), whose freight cars would transport the oil to and from the marine terminal, doesn’t have an emergency plan.

Mélanie Tremblay, of Bombe sur Rail

Mélanie Tremblay, of Bombe sur Rail, is cycling through Quebec and New Brunswick to warn municipalities about the Chaleur Terminals Inc. project. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

But Belledune Mayor Ron Bourque contends the project, which could bring up to 200 jobs to the region during construction and about 30 full-time positions for ongoing operations, is positive.

“We do recognize that the mayors on the Gaspé coast have some concerns concerning increased boat activity in the Bay of Chaleur, so our objective is to send an invitation to all the mayors of the Gaspé coast to come to Belledune and take a trip of the port to see what security measures they have in place, what safety issues they have in place,” said Bourque.

Three young Quebec activists with the group Bombe sur Rail aren’t convinced.

They are cycling from Quebec to New Brunswick, stopping in every municipality along the CN track, warning people of what they fear is to come.

“We’re really worried about it because there can be explosions,” said Mélanie Tremblay.

“Since Lac-Mégantic, there’s been at least 10 explosions. There was one [earlier this month] in Saskatchewan and there was one in New Brunswick [near] Plaster Rock,” she said.

The derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013 and a derailment in Wapske, N.B, in January, 2014, both involved tanker cars carrying crude oil to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John. Both derailments resulted in massive fires. In Lac-Mégantic, 47 residents were killed.

On Oct. 7, a train carrying hazardous materials went off the tracks near Clair, Sask., creating an explosion and covering the area in potentially toxic smoke. The community was evacuated until the following morning.

Paul Boudreau, the head of emergency measures in Belledune, says there is a lot of work to do to ensure the terminal can operate safely, but it’s still early days.

One area of focus will be on training the volunteer fire department, which is used to residential and commercial fires, he said.

“We’re still in the preliminary stage here and we need to make sure the firefighters know their job of what they’re going to be faced with,” said Boudreau. “That will be the challenge for this department, to make sure the guys are ready.”

Chaleur Terminals could not be reached on Monday for comment, but a spokesperson for CN said safety is a priority on the project.

Information and training sessions have already started in Quebec, and municipalities in New Brunswick will be contacted soon, the spokesperson said.

The terminal is expected to be up and running later this year, or by early 2015, according to Chaleur Terminal’s website.

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