The chemical industry is asking a U.S. district court to stop Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) from continuing its new policy that restricts railcar shipments of chlorine, anhydrous ammonia, and other extremely hazardous chemicals.
Last month, CP announced that as of April 14, it would no longer transport toxic inhalation hazard materials—gases or liquids that are known to pose a danger to humans in the event of a release—in an older type of tank car that is prone to rupture in accidents. Those cars, built before 1989, do not contain steel that has been “normalized,” a heat-treating process that makes steel less brittle at lower temperatures and less susceptible to fractures.
“CP believes there is a shared responsibility to haul these commodities throughout North America in the safest possible manner,” the company says.
But in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, several chemical industry trade groups call CP’s move “arbitrary and illegal.”
“It is up to the Department of Transportation (DOT)—not the railroads—to specify the appropriate rail package for commodities of a particular hazard,” says Frank Reiner, president of the Chlorine Institute, one of the groups involved in the litigation.
CP’s embargo affects about 21% of the 5,300 cars in the chlorine tanker fleet. “All cars currently in use meet existing DOT safety requirements,” Reiner notes. “CP’s action, in effect, unilaterally bans otherwise safe and legal rail shipments.”