Oil-by-rail transport has grown from approximately 500 rail cars in 2009 to 140,000 cars in 2014.

These oil rail cars are filled with volatile, flammable, and toxic substances prone to violent explosions and spills when the trains derail.  It is estimated that roughly a dozen oil trains have exploded in the United States and Canada during 2013-2015, including one in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec that left 47 people dead.

Despite the calls by many to reduce these risks by taking oil trains off the tracks, the oil industry continues to propose massive new rail terminals like the proposed expansion of the Hardisty Rail Terminal in Alberta. With the total capacity to ship up to 336,000 barrels a day of Alberta’s heavy oil and bitumen, the proposed expansion in Hardisty would make this new super terminal Canada’s largest oil-by-rail loading facility.

Why did Ecojustice get involved?

We know that locking in more carbon-intensive infrastructure will not help us reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change. And we know that putting more oil trains on the tracks means a greater chance of explosive derailments — putting both public safety and the environment at risk. All without necessarily having to undergo an environmental assessment.

That’s why Ecojustice, on behalf of Greenpeace Canada and Safe Rail Communities, told the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that there needs to be an environmental assessment of the Hardisty Rail Terminal Project to assess the environmental effects of the project.

What does this victory mean?

In late January 2016, the Agency ordered the first-ever environmental assessment of a rail-based oil shipping facility. This means that before the Hardisty project could go-ahead, it would need to identify and mitigate all of its possible adverse environmental effects including, public safety issues and climate impacts.