McGonigle said there was no reason to suspect any criminal or terror-related activity.
The train’s oil was being transported from North Dakota’s Bakken oil region to a refinery in New Brunswick. Because of limited pipeline capacity in the Bakken region and in Canada, oil producers are increasingly using railroads to transport much of the oil to refineries.
The Canadian Railway Association recently estimated that as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil will be shipped on Canada’s tracks this year — up from just 500 carloads in 2009. The Quebec disaster is the fourth freight train accident in Canada under investigation involving crude oil shipments since the beginning of the year.
Harper has called railroad transit ‘‘far more environmentally challenging’’ while trying to persuade the Obama administration to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Greenpeace Canada said Sunday that federal safety regulations haven’t kept up with the enormous growth in the shipment of oil by rail.
‘‘We think it is safe. We think we have a safe operation,’’ McGonigle said of carrying oil by rail. ‘‘No matter what mode of transportation you are going to have incidents. That’s been proven. This is an unfortunate incident.’’
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies and Charmaine Noronha contributed from Toronto.