VANCOUVER Dec 3 Canada must be better prepared
to respond to major oil spills if more crude starts to flow in
pipelines to the country's Pacific Coast, a government panel
said on Tuesday, as fears of a major marine disaster grow.
The report by the federal transport department makes 45
recommendations, including ensuring companies are prepared for a
worst-case scenario and new guarantees that taxpayers will not
be liable for costs related to spills in Canadian waters.
Regulators are currently weighing separate proposals from
Enbridge and Kinder Morgan to build new
pipelines to carry oil from Alberta to the British Columbia
coast, which could bring an additional 600 tankers to the region
Under current rules, the polluter is required to pay for the
entire cost of a clean-up and there are funds set aside to
compensate those affected by pollution damage from a maritime
accident, though there is a cap on damages per incident.
The report recommended that the cap be abolished and also
said that an emergency account, funded by industry, should be
created to pay when Canada's Coast Guard is called in to lead a
"Canadian taxpayers should not bear any liability for spills
in Canadian waters," said the report, the first major review of
Canada's spill response plan in nearly 20 years.
It also urged more flexibility in response techniques and
recommended that spill response be managed on a regional basis,
ensuring that procedures are tailor-made for various different
geographies and environments.
Canada is the world's sixth-largest producer of crude oil,
the vast majority of which is exported to the United States.
But congestion on existing pipelines means that crude is
getting bottlenecked in landlocked Alberta, spurring the Alberta
and federal governments to push for a new pipeline to the West
Coast to open up export markets in Asia.
Those efforts have been fiercely opposed by First Nations
aboriginal peoples and environmentalists, who say a spill near
water or in the ocean would be devastating.
"The government will take all necessary actions to prevent
oil spills, clean them up should they happen, and ensure
polluters pay," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt in statement.
The report, the first major review of Canada's spill
response plan in nearly 20 years, was critical of existing
response time standards, suggesting that timely response is the
key to mitigating the risks of a spill.
"In our view, the current response-time planning standards
will not ensure the best possible outcomes in some spill
scenarios," the report said.
The current rules were put in place after the Exxon Valdez
disaster in 1989, when an oil tanker struck a reef in Alaska,
releasing 44,000 tonnes of oil into Prince William Sound. They
have not been fully reviewed in nearly 20 years.
A second phase of the review will look at requirements for
hazardous and noxious substances, including liquefied natural
gas, as well as response to Arctic spills.