Spill liability changes could be paving way for Enbridge approval

Pipeline safety changes could be paving way for Enbridge approval
An oil pipeline crossing the Tanana River in Alaska

By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – The federal government announced new measures Wednesday to ensure pipeline companies pick up the tab for any spills, as cabinet prepares to announce its decision on the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said the new rules are not tied to any particular project but put in place an unmatched regime for pipeline safety.

“Even in the most extreme, rare or unlikely circumstances, the government will ensure that the environment, landowners and taxpayers are protected and the polluter pays,” he said in Vancouver.

“There is no country in the world that transports oil and gas as safely as Canada.”

“Absolute” liability

Under the new rules, pipeline companies will have absolute liability in the event of a spill. It means they will have to pay all costs and damages related to oil spills, without needing to be proven negligent or at fault.

Pipeline operators will also be required to have a minimum amount of cash available for cleanup costs. The National Energy Board will have the power to order reimbursement of spill costs and to take over spill response should the pipeline company be unable or unwilling to do so.

The federal government will cover any spill-related costs a company cannot pay, and the national energy regulator would recoup the money from industry.

Changes come amid pipeline debates

B.C. 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 the province with diluted bitumen from Alberta.

The changes, which have yet to be tabled in Parliament, are the latest in a slew of amendments aimed at appeasing public concerns over the two proposals.

Rickford said the federal government will also develop a strategy to increase First Nations’ participation in pipeline safety planning, monitoring and spill response.

“Working in full partnership with aboriginal communities, with our provincial and territorial counterparts and industry, Canada will become a supplier of energy to the world,” Rickford said.

A day earlier, the federal government announced changes to marine safety regulations affecting oil tankers.

Rickford was joined Wednesday by B.C. Transport Minister Todd Stone.

Provincial governments support changes

The B.C. 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.

Stone wouldn’t say whether the measures meet that criteria but called them “a step in the right direction.”

“Are we all the way there? I think there’s always more that can be done, but what I think is demonstrated by the federal government here today is a very strong commitment towards ensuring that the standards here in Canada will be world-leading,” he said.

Alberta Premier Dave Hancock said the new rules “strengthen the responsible development of energy resources.”

“Every Canadian, no matter what province or territory they call home, expects that energy development is done with a high degree of environmental safeguards,” he said in a statement.

Government claims companies “responsive” to spills

Natural Resources officials said there are 825,000 kilometres of pipelines throughout Canada — 73,000 of them are cross-border pipelines regulated by the National Energy Board.

There has never been an incident in Canada where a pipeline company was not responsive to a spill, they said.

And there has only ever been one pipeline spill that exceeded $1 billion to cleanup. That was a 2010 spill from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which is still being cleaned up.

Ziad Saad, vice-president of safety for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, welcomed the changes. There are measures in place now for extreme circumstances, he said.

“We are clarifying and strengthening those provisions to ensure the public that they won’t be on the hook in case of a pipeline incident,” he said.

The federal government is expected to announce its final decision on the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline next month.

READ: Oil transport engineers say Enbridge tanker plan unsafe


7 thoughts on “Spill liability changes could be paving way for Enbridge approval

  1. One thing they don,t mention is compensation? For the people who lives will be changed forever. i the event of a spill….Exxon still has not compensated the people of cordova AK and its been 30 years since the courts ordered them to pay 5.5 billion…This just shows you what we are really dealing with.

  2. A few things stood glaring in my face upon reading this propaganda fluff.
    1. Northern Gateway will be a stand alone company at arms length from Enbridge, that is, enbridge could put a billion dollars into this LLC and WHEN an oil spill occurs and they use up the billion that’s it, too bad, can’t go after Enbridge.
    2. what the hell is world-leading response without world -leading cleanup and mediation, totally non-existent, the crap is still there. Read further on the blatant cover-up schemes they tried on the Kalamazoo, by covering the banks with straw and absorbent materials only to get spanked by the US EPA.
    3. With all the kilometres of pipe there has never been an incident in Canada where a company was not responsive. But what they don’t tell you is how many leaks those lines have actually had. Reminds me of the “leak a week” saying.
    4. So if they can’t or won’t pay the bill. the gov’t. will pick up the tab! Damn, there’s that little hand tugging at my and every other taxpayers wallet AGAIN. CORPORATE WELFARE STRIKES AGAIN.
    Sorry for the length of my rant.

  3. What a crock! But at least the Feds will cover any costs the companies can’t (won’t). Thank goodness for all of us dumbs taxpayers! “No country in the world transports oil and gas as safely as Canada”. Tell that to residents of Le Megantic!
    And is Todd Stone trying to be the next Kevin Falcon? Man, what an annoying cretin!

    1. When Mr Stone sold his soul to the almighty dollar he surrendered his common sense.
      I cant wait to see what he has to say after the first spill (or Christy Clark for that matter).
      Because there WILL be spills.

      “It’s a very serious spill”,( Geez, we never thought it could be THAT bad!)
      ” We’ll have a Commission of Inquiry” ( We’re gonna delay blaming anyone for so long when we finally reach a conclusion, no one will remember or care)
      ” The people responsible will pay.” ( see previous comment).

      The amount of money involved here requires blatant scheming, lying and obsfucation.
      This isnt over by a long shot.

  4. Yet read this story in the Huffington Post: http://goo.gl/qEWIyN. The way I read this (“The National Energy Board will… take over spill response should the pipeline company be… unwilling to do so”) all the oil companies need to do to circumvent this utterly toothless regulation (not even a law) is say “no.” At best, the claims on the companies may wind up perpetually in the courts. Also as is stated in a related article in the Vancouver Observer, “It’s not just about holding companies liable,” Sterritt said. “They just really haven’t figured out how to clean this stuff up.”

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