Responding to a spill

by Derek Clouthier

VICTORIA, B.C. – In response to what it feels is a lack of adequate information being provided when a hazardous substance spill occurs, the British Columbia government is in the process of amending the province’s Environmental Management Act to ensure when a train, plane, boat or truck suffers a spill, proper response and recovery measures are being employed.

The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) has voiced some concerns over the details of the amendment and what effects it would have on the trucking industry.

“We have recommended no duplication of requirements, recognition of the voluntary measures trucking companies currently take and enhanced communication between federal and provincial agencies so they can exchange information directly rather than trucking companies potentially having to make multiple reports,” said BCTA CEO and president Louise Yako. “In other words, our emphasis has always been on identifying any gaps in current systems and finding ways to fill those gaps.”

However, Yako said the provincial government has not yet provided the BCTA with the data it is using to influence its decision making process.
On July 4, the BCTA submitted its third intensions paper to the Ministry of Environment (MoE) detailing its position and recommendations for the proposed new spill response regime.

In that report, the BCTA states that when it comes to reporting a spill, the association agrees with the government that there should be some kind of standardized reporting requirements aligned with those of other regulators and industry best practices to avoid duplication, and that a single portal for all spill reporting would be ideal.

The BCTA also recommends a preparedness and response organization (PRO) be established through a phased in approach to focus on communication, coordination and data management of a spill. The association, however, said the organization should avoid placing arduous costs or requirements on the trucking industry due to a variety of factors, including reporting duplication, the effectiveness of regulations already in place for the trucking industry, the small size of most trucking companies in B.C., third-party liability insurance and the limited risk of an in-transit spill from a truck.

Yako underscored a 2012 report from the Canadian Trucking Alliance indicating there were 1.64 spills per 10,000 loads transported by a truck, and only around 30% of those spills occurred while in-transit. The BCTA’s report also indicated about 90% of B.C. trucking companies were made up of five trucks or less, but that the remaining 10% run around 60% of the province’s fleet.

In the BCTA’s third intentions paper response, it states: “Since MoE is committed to developing a risk-based model, spill contingency planning should consider the most likely scenario for a spill rather than a worst-case scenario, since worst-case scenarios are the least likely occurrence.”

The MoE said while every industry in the province is captured currently by other regulators in some capacity, those regulators have varying degrees of spill preparedness, response and recovery requirements, and the new regime would look to regulate all of these industries under one cohesive plan.

“To fulfill its legislated responsibilities, the ministry requires information from all industries about the hazardous substances they are moving or storing, as well as the planning and preparedness efforts undertaken before a spill occurs to be assured an effective response can occur,” the MoE told Truck West. “Although these other agencies do address portions of a strong spill program, their lens is primarily not focused on environmental concerns, which is the principle responsibility of the ministry.”

The MoE said despite various regulators having some overlap in their requirements, there are a lot of inconsistencies at both the federal and provincial levels, which leads to uncertainty for the public and other governments about the obligations of industry in the event of a spill.
“This regime is not targeting the trucking industry in a different manner than any other industry,” the MoE said. “The goal of this regime is to ensure world-leading spill preparedness, response and recovery across all sectors.”

The ministry said its environmental emergencies program and accompanying regulations have not been updated for more than 20 years, and must move forward to best address B.C.’s growing economy. The MoE said it was premature at this point to describe in detail how the proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act would affect how a spill is responded to with discussions ongoing with First Nations, local governments, industry and others.

The proposed PRO would be intended to provide certain services, like those suggested by the BCTA, in the event of a spill, but ultimately it would be the responsible party that would be required to ensure the spilled material is cleaned up to the satisfaction of the MoE.

The BCTA provided supplementary recommendations to the MoE with relation to safety and spill prevention, including shipper education and mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs), citing the US’s move to do so starting in 2017. “While the trucking industry’s crash rate is low (about 5% of all crashes in B.C.),” the report stated, “driver error is the most common cited crash factor. Improving compliance with these regulations would help reduce driver fatigue, which would reduce crash and spill risks.”

The BCTA also recommended the use of speed limiters on trucks, activated to a maximum of 105 km/h, and an entry-level training program for truck drivers that meets a national standard.

The MoE said the current system for tracking spill reports does not adequately compare data for spills from one mode of transportation to another, but the new model would put this type of information in place.

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