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Re: “Harzardous goods disclosure security risk, Lisa Raitt says” Letter to the Editor, Published in The Toronto Star, March 24, 2014

March 19, 2014
The Editors
The Toronto Star
1 Yonge St.

Toronto, Ontario

Re: “Harzardous goods disclosure security risk, Lisa Raitt says”

Dear Sir/Madam

I find Transport Minister Lisa Raitt’s claim that disclosing greater information regarding the movement of dangerous goods by rail through urban areas would pose a security risk (“Harzardous goods disclosure security risk, Lisa Raitt says” The Star, March 19, 2014) far from compelling. Information regarding the transportation of dangerous goods through communities by rail could be made available, while protecting public security, on the basis of the following principles:

1.    Railways be required to be able to provide information on the presence, identity, quantity and location of dangerous goods on their systems in real time. This information should be readily available in their cargo manifesting and traffic management systems. If it is not, they should be required via regulation to ensure that their systems can provide this information on demand both internally and to the relevant local, provincial and federal authorities.  
2.    That railways be required by regulation to provide this information, including the specific types and quantities of dangerous goods carried on specific trains, again in real time, upon demand from first responders and municipalities, both for planning purposes and in the event of emergencies. There may be legitimate security reasons for not making information with these levels of detail readily available to the public.  
3.    That railways be required to report to municipalities and the public regularly (at least quarterly, possibly monthly) on the total amounts and specific identities of dangerous goods they carry through each municipality.
Such an approach would address the needs of first responders, municipal governments and the public, in the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic disaster, for better and more detailed information about movements of dangerous goods through their communities. At the same time it would avoid making public information that could be used to target specific shipments by those who would do deliberate harm to communities.
Yours sincerely,

Mark S. Winfield, Ph.D. Associate Professor