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More oil moving by train, some through BC: National Energy Board

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – As debate over oil pipelines in BC continues, new data from the National Energy Board shows the amount of oil transported from Alberta’s oil sands by rail increased nine-times over the span two years. Canadian National Railway says transporting oil is a growing part of their business.

While the majority of crude oil train cargo goes East, some does wind up in New Westminster and Vancouver rail yards according to Mark Hallman with CN. He doesn’t expect railways will stop moving oil anytime soon. “The economics of sending crude by rail is very powerful, it allows the producers to be able to capture the best profit margins for their product.”

Data released by the NEB found in 2012 just under 16-thousand barrels of oil were moved by rail daily–but by the end of 2013, that had jumped to more than 146,000 barrels each day.

Concerns about transporting oil by train have escalated following a devastating train derailment in Lac Megantic on July 6, 2013. Forty-two people died, with another five presumed dead and thirty buildings in the town centre destroyed.

“CN is very committed to operating a very safe railway. And in the decade between 2003 and 2013 CN’s main track derailments declined by more than 50-percent even though we have increased volumes of traffic,” assures Hallman.

“We don’t talk about volumes,” says Hallman when asked how much oil actually comes through BC. He adds that’s confidential, sensitive information to CN customers.

Meanwhile, Ben West with ForestEthics says the government is dodging debate over moving oil by rail since trains don’t face the same strict approval process as pipeline projects.

He worries the voices of British Columbians who don’t want Alberta oil moving through the province aren’t being heard. “It’s a shame to hear that increasing amount of oil are moving by rail. To me this is kind of a backdoor way for the companies to get around the tremendous amount of opposition there is to pipelines right now,” says West.

The increase in crude-by-rail movement is undemocratic according to West. “We’re actually getting shortchanged by not limiting the movement of oil in it’s raw form. And definitely we need to take a really serious look at the safety issues related to the movement of oil of any kind whether it be by oil or by pipeline in this province.”

West is calling on Ottawa to open a larger conversation with Canadians about resource development and increasing tanker traffic in waters off the West Coast.