The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

With pipeline decision looming, Ottawa tweaks tanker safety rules

  • Print

VANCOUVER - With a decision expected next month on the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia, the federal government announced new measures Tuesday to strengthen its oil-spill response regime and placate a reluctant public.

Those changes include removing a $161-million cap on payouts from a national oil spill compensation fund and making the entire $400-million fund available to cover the costs of a marine spill.

"With these changes, Canada will have the most robust and comprehensive liability and compensation system for spills from ships anywhere in the world," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in Saint John, N.B., far from the eye of the oil tanker storm on the West Coast.

"We want to make sure that if there is a spill ... that it is not the Canadian taxpayer, that it is the polluter who pays at the end of the day."

The proposed changes failed to convert pipeline critics, who said the entire Canadian Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund wouldn't scratch the surface in a worst-case scenario spill off the B.C. coast.

"That's really not good enough," said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, a coalition of aboriginal communities along the north and central B.C. coast that opposes the pipelines.

The changes offer no comfort to those concerned about the increased tanker traffic that would result from Northern Gateway or Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline through central B.C. to Port Metro Vancouver, he said.

The unlimited liability of the fund was one of 45 recommendations from an expert panel on tanker safety that reported last fall.

Raitt said up to $1.6 billion in total is available in compensation and to cover damages in the event of a spill through the ship owners' insurance, the domestic fund, and the international Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund. Both are funded by levies on the shipping industry.

If all of those funds are exhausted, the federal government would pay compensation and then recover the money from industry, she said.

Sterritt said taxpayers could still be on the hook.

But B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak called the changes a significant step toward the "world-class" marine safety regime that is one of five conditions of provincial support for any oil pipeline project.

"There's a long way to go toward implementation but when you consider where we were at the beginning when we announced our five conditions, and where we are now — specifically with the federal government — we are feeling very pleased with the way in which they have worked toward our goals," Polak said in Victoria.

The $6.5-billion Northern Gateway project proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) would transport about 525,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the northern B.C. coast.

The $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion proposed by Texas-based Kinder Morgan would almost triple the current capacity to Port Metro Vancouver, from 300,000 barrels a day to almost 900,000.

The two pipelines would see more than 600 additional oil tankers a year plying the B.C. coast.

The pipelines would contribute an estimated US$131 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product between 2016 and 2030, according to a University of Calgary study.

Tuesday's legislation is the latest in a long list of changes introduced by the federal government since the Northern Gateway project began to founder two years ago.

The proposals would also allow for the use of chemical dispersants — measures that drew immediate fire from project opponents.

Dispersants are meant to break down oil but Karen Wristen, executive director of the environmental group Living Oceans, said evidence is mounting that they are more toxic than the oil itself.

"The only benefit to dispersants is that they make it difficult to see an oil spill, by breaking it up and mixing it into the water column," said Wristen. "For the oil polluters — and apparently, the government — it's out of sight, out of mind."

Sterritt agreed.

"It's more of a cover-up than a clean-up because dispersant cleans up nothing," he said.

_

Follow @ByDeneMoore on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Peguis Chief Hudson comments on toddler's death upgrade to homicide investigation

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Weather standup. Sundog. Refraction of light through ice crystals which caused both the sun dog and and fog along McPhillips Road early Wednesday morning. 071205.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google