CN Rail changes its stance on submitting a spray management plan to the province. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

CN changes its position on sharing spraying methods with B.C. government

Chief legal officer for CN Rail says the company is now cooperating with the province

After CN sent a letter to the B.C. government stating it would not submit a Pest Management Plan, the rail company’s chief legal officer said they are currently working on a plan.

“I was not pleased with the letter that was sent,” Sean Finn, the CN Executive Vice President of corporate services and chief legal officer, said.

“It was sent by a junior employee at CN, and is not consistent with our position. I want to be very clear, our position is that any public authority in Canada that wants to know what we’re doing when it comes to vegetation control, we’ll share all the information.”

The letter, written on May 23, was sent to B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy about CN Rail’s 2018 vegetation management activities. CN is currently under investigation by the province for spraying pesticides near the salmon-bearing Skeena River in the fall of 2017.

READ MORE: CN Rail refuses to submit pest plan in wake of government probe

In an interview with the Northern View on June 7, Finn said, “Our position was we don’t think we have to apply for a permit, but it was never our position that we wouldn’t share information. We have now, in the past week, also revised our position. We are applying for a permit.”

CN Rail, whose tracks and trains cross the country, is regulated under federal law by the Railway Safety Act. Finn said the company’s vegetation management is crucial to keep the line clear and safe, and reduce the fire risk of dry plants lining the tracks. In B.C., it is required that such companies also submit a Pest Management Plan.

“The instruction I’ve given to my colleagues in the group that handles this is that the mayors, at least in the past two years, are to be notified in writing, in advance of our intent to do vegetation control. Explain why we are doing it, and offer if they have any questions they can call us,” Finn said. “I have personally signed some letters… If they are in the area where we are doing the work, they would have gotten the letter from us informing them. Plus a notice in the local paper… so not just the mayor, but people in the community can know what we’re doing.”

Port Edward, Terrace and Prince Rupert council offices were unable to find similar correspondence from CN for the year before. In May 2017, the previous Pest Management Plan for CN had expired, before the time of the spraying along the Skeena River.

On June 6, the day before the interview, CN Rail sent letters to Port Edward and Terrace, stating the company is clearing its right-of-way for the 2018 summer season. However, there was no public notice submitted in the Northern View by press deadline.

Of the investigation, Finn said he could not comment on specifics. “We’re not going to hide anything,” he said. “If a mistake was made, or somebody who works for us didn’t do something that was in accordance with either our instructions or what is required by a permit, we will make sure it gets corrected.”

READ MORE: Glyphosate residue found on dead leaves next to CN tracks



keili.bartlett@thenorthernview.com

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