VANCOUVER May 13 Canada moved on Tuesday to
strengthen its response plan for oil spills at sea ahead of the
development of new pipelines that would sharply increase tanker
traffic in Canadian waters if they are built.
Among the new measures, the federal government said it would
remove a per-incident liability cap on a domestic clean-up fund,
which means that all the money in the fund could be made
available to clean up a single spill. It also pledged to cover
spill costs if clean-up funds were exhausted.
It also said it will lift its ban on the use of dispersants
in cases when using them offers a net environmental benefit.
Dispersants are chemicals that break down oil slicks but can
also harm marine life.
"With these changes, Canada will have the most robust and
comprehensive liability and compensation system in the world,"
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in announcing the
Conservative government's plan at an event in Saint John, New
The changes to the ship-source oil spill regime come as the
government readies to rule on Enbridge Inc's proposed
Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta to
the British Columbia Coast.
Regulators are also reviewing Kinder Morgan's plan
to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the West
Coast. Those two projects could bring an additional 600 tankers
to Canada's Pacific Coast each year.
Also, TransCanada Corp has proposed a pipeline to
ship Alberta crude east to refineries in Quebec and New
Brunswick, increasing tanker traffic off the East Coast and in
the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The pipelines are opposed by many environmentalists and
aboriginal groups, which fear spills and the possibility that
pipelines will hasten development of the Alberta oil sands and
exacerbate climate change.
The government has pushed hard to reassure Canadians that it
has policies in place to manage increased tanker traffic and
respond if there is a major spill.
Under the revised plan, Canada will lift the C$161 million
($147.65 million) cap on its Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund,
making available the full amount if needed for a single
incident. There is about C$400 million in the fund currently.
Raitt said that in a worst-case spill, once all domestic and
international pollution funds have been tapped, the government
will pay out any remaining compensation, and then recover that
cost through an industry levy.
The government said it will also invest in new navigation
technologies to help vessels move safely through congested
waterways and support scientific research looking at how
different types of heavy oils behave in marine environments.
The new plan comes five months after a government panel
cautioned that Canada must be better prepared to respond to
major oil spills if more crude starts to flow in pipelines to
its Pacific Coast.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and