Montreal Quebec - New Brunswick Southern Railway (NBSR) postponed entering pleas Tuesday on 24 charges of violating the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.
Prosecutors say the charges arose from a Transport Canada investigation that was triggered by the 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in Lake Megantic.
While the charges appear to overlap 34 offences committed by Irving Oil in the eight months prior to the derailment, prosecutors say this is different.
"It's a separate investigation," Denis Lavoie of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said when reached by phone in Montreal.
"I can't comment on what is behind the charges against NBSR because we are at the stage where no plea has been entered yet by the defendant company."
"And this will probably come up later in the course of procedures if we have to go to trial, or if there's an agreement on plea later on, and argument on sentence."
$4 Million Fine on Earlier Charges
In October, Irving Oil was was ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to improper classification of dangerous goods for the crude oil it was transporting by train.
It also pleaded guilty to inadequately training its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods.
The offences occurred between November 2012 and July 2013, during which time, Irving Oil imported about 14,000 cars of crude for its Saint John refinery.
NBSR is also accused of failure to properly document oil for transport and allowing unqualified personnel to manage that transport.
The alleged offences span from November 2012 to July 2013.
The railway company is part if NBM Railways, a subsidiary of the J.D. Irving Ltd., which also includes Cavendish Farms, Kent Building Supplies, and Irving Pulp and Paper.
According to the railway's website it was founded in 1995 after Canadian Pacific stopped running in the Maritimes.
The railway, along with sister railways the Maine Northern Railway and the Eastern Maine Railway, operates 883 kilometres of railway in New Brunswick and Maine.
In a brief appearance Tuesday, lawyer Catherine Lahey, representing NBSR, said she was in the process of receiving some 9,000 disclosure documents from the crown.
Prosecutor Guylaine Basque had requested, in writing, a six-week adjournment to allow the defence to review the disclosure.
Provincial court Judge Kelly Winchester adjourned the matter until 6 Apr 2018.
Lavoie agreed that 9,000 pages of documents probably did provide a "rough idea" of how much information had to be shared.
He said it was provided to the defendant on a hard disk drive.
The Lake Megantic disaster unleashed multiple investigations, including one by the Transportation Safety Board, which does not assign blame or civil or criminal liability.
The board identified 18 distinct causes and contributing factors, including insufficient use of hand brakes.
It also pointed out that all 72 tank cars carrying oil from North Dakota to Saint John on that journey were Class 111, manufactured between 1980 and 2012, and lacked the improvements of newer models.
According to the safety board, approximately six million litres of petroleum crude escaped from the derailed and broken cars and fuelled an inferno that destroyed much of the town's core.
Last month in Sherbrooke a jury acquitted three former Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing death.
Two weeks ago, MMA was found guilty of unlawfully dumping crude oil into Megantic Lake, in violation of the Fisheries Act.