Last month the Canadian Government announced that pipeline companies will now be liable for all costs and damages related to spills from their projects, regardless of liability or negligence.
Pipeline operators will also be required to have a minimum amount of cash set aside to pay for cleanup costs, and the Canadian National Energy Board will be given the authority to order reimbursement for those affected by a spill.
“Pipeline companies will be held fully liable for all incidents,” Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford said at an event in Vancouver in March. “The idea here is that even in the most extreme, rare or unlikely circumstances (of a major spill), the government will ensure that the environment, landowners and taxpayers are protected and that the polluter pays.”
Also in March, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt was in Saint John, N.B., to announce similar changes to marine safety regulations. Those measures included a $400-million compensation fund to cover the costs of a marine spill.
Rickford made the announcement in a province that is in the midst of a divisive debate about two major pipeline proposals — Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s expansion of its Trans Mountain line — both of which would traverse B.C. carrying heavy crude from Alberta. If approved, each project would add between 500,000-600,000 barrels per day.
Alberta Premier Dave Hancock issued a written statement applauding the changes which he said would “build on the principles of prevention, liability and preparedness.”
“Pipelines are a safe, efficient and reliable way for Canada to move its oil and gas products, and are critical to accessing key global markets for Canada’s energy products,” the statement said. “Every Canadian, no matter what province or territory they call home, expects that energy development is done with a high degree of environmental safeguards and the province of Alberta supports initiatives like those announced today that strengthen the responsible development of energy resources.”
In B.C., the provincial government has set out five conditions for supporting any oil pipeline project, including an undefined “world-leading” oil spill response and prevention on land and at sea.