Shipping more oil by rail raises red flags for Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood.
This week, the Alberta government announced it is leasing 4,400 railway cars to move landlocked oil to market.
“I think if you add up all the negatives, it’s evident it’s not the way we want to go,” Wood said.
“The purchase of additional rail cars to move oil is a Band-Aid solution to an overarching problem and that’s the lack of pipelines.”
He said derailments happen all the time and longer trains impede traffic at intersections.
“The trains are suppose to slow down when they come through towns. But there can always be somebody who drives in front of the train to cause the accident. It will happen. It’s not if, it’s when.”
Last June, seven rail cars carrying crude oil left the track between Penhold and Red Deer. One car leaked oil.
It was the second time in the past 14 years that a derailment with a leak or spill has occurred in roughly the same area.
In a separate incident several years ago, some people had to be evacuated from Red Deer after a derailed tanker leaked toxic anhydrous ammonia.
Wood said as a farmer who ships grain by rail, too many cars on a rail line slows the system down.
“It only takes one glitch in the system to back everything up. If we’re going to be able to keep the good markets that we’ve established over the years, we have to be reliable.”
He said the focus needs to be on building pipelines. The safety record is good, especially with new pipelines. The economy needs a boost and people require jobs.
“I personally think if we were to have a government make an announcement that the pipeline was taking place, that the oil industry could see construction started and have that confidence, I think we’d see an immediate boost to the price of the product,” Wood said.
Mayor Tara Veer said the city supports securing market access for energy, but said safety considerations need to be factored in.
“The safest solution and the most environmentally sustainable solution is pipeline infrastructure. And it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, that the provincial government has to even consider alternative means,” Veer said.
“We expect that many of the rail cars will actually bypass Red Deer. But obviously it is of concern and highlights the need to continue to elevate our community voice nationally in terms of securing pipeline infrastructure.”
She said most of the safety regulations are at a provincial level, and certainly if the city has any safety concerns, it would flag those for the province and its regulatory bodies.
On Thursday, Tim McMillan, president and CEO of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, will speak about the association’s 2019 Alberta energy platform at the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
In a statement regarding the increased rail shipments, the association said it supports all efforts to expand market access and help address the storage glut.
“Effective market access for oil is essential to ensuring Alberta receives full market price for its exports and to improve our industry’s competitiveness. The best, long-term solution lies with additional pipelines infrastructures,” the statement said.