Canada not ready for major offshore spill: watchdog

Tue Feb 5, 2013 2:06pm EST
 

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's offshore petroleum boards are not equipped to cope with a major spill, the country's environmental watchdog warned on Tuesday in a report that also said the booming energy sector needed more oversight.

Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan said in a report that unless Canada improved its record on environmental regulation, resource customers might be deterred.

His conclusions are sensitive for the ruling pro-business Conservatives, who expect some C$650 billion ($650 billion) of new investments in natural resource projects over the next decade and want more extraction of oil, gas and metals.

"Considering the central role of natural resources in today's Canadian economy, it is critical that environmental protections keep pace with economic developments. In this report ... we found numerous shortcomings," Vaughan wrote.

"These shortcomings leave me concerned that environmental protection is failing to keep pace with economic development."

Vaughan also said that Canada was set to reduce direct spending on the fossil fuel sector as part of an international push to phase out subsidies.

He said the two offshore petroleum boards operating in Atlantic Canada, in the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, were not adequately prepared for disaster. The boards are run jointly by Ottawa and the provinces.

"We identified several shortcomings, including insufficient spill response tools across the federal government, inadequately tested capacity, poorly coordinated response plans," he said.   Continued...