MP criticizes CN culture after coal train derailment

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen compares rail regulation to “fox in the hen house.”

Scene shortly after coal train derailment Jan. 19. Michael Grace-Dacosta photo

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said the corporate culture of CN has changed dramatically for the worse in the last 14 years since he became a member of Parliament.

“They much more had, if I can say, a Canadian perspective and concern for things like social license and acceptance in the communities. I’ve seen that drop significantly. They’ve become entirely bottom line; only token efforts to listen and modify their behaviours based on local input, so I want to see that cranked up,” said Cullen.

CN said it has removed all coal from Mission Creek, also known as Station Creek, near New Hazelton.

A train travelling westbound to Prince Rupert left the tracks on the morning of Jan. 19 near the Highway 16 overpass west of New Hazelton. Nobody was injured when the 27 cars derailed, many spilling into the creek.

Crews removed coal from the creek by hand. More than 200 cubic metres of coal was on the slope between the track and creek, according to Emergency Management B.C.

CN public affairs manager Kate Fenske said Monday that remediation work was getting under way this week. She added that an environmental impact assessment will follow and habitat restoration will be done this spring.

“CN and its contractors are working closely with the Province and First Nations in the clean-up effort. Water samples are taken daily and the contractor sends the report directly to the Ministry of Environment,” wrote Fenske in an email.

While B.C. Environment Ministry officials were monitoring the work, rail transport is a federal responsibility. Cullen said to him, rail is almost self-regulated.

“They get a fox watching the hen house type of scenario. So swinging the pendulum back a little bit where the feds actually do their job, where local communities have a lot more say, is the only way to keep our communities safe,” said Cullen.

“I just don’t trust an industry with such a strong, overriding profit motive to properly consider the impact on local communities by having longer cars, by not having sufficient rest time for drivers, all those things. That’s what worries me and keeps me up at night.”

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