Canada revamps pipeline safety rules ahead of new projects

Wed May 14, 2014 6:34pm EDT
 
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada unveiled new rules on Wednesday to enhance pipeline safety and spill response, ahead of the development of new projects proposed to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to coastal ports for export.

The new legislation will give Canada's energy regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), more power to enforce compliance on safety and the authority to step in to lead spill response if a company is unwilling or unable to do so.

Companies will also now be held liable, up to C$1 billion ($917 million), for all spills or incidents on their lines, whether or not they are at-fault or negligent, putting the onus on owners to ensure safe operations.

"This approach is called 'absolute liability' and it will apply to all federally-regulated pipelines," said Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford at a press conference in Vancouver.

Companies found to be at-fault or negligent in an incident will continue to face unlimited liability.

The new measures, which include a revamp of some legislation dating back to the 1950s, build on a pledge last year to require all companies operating major crude oil pipelines in Canada to have C$1 billion on hand to fund spill clean ups.

In the case of a severe spill or incident, the government said it will backstop the initial cost of clean-up and remediation, with the NEB responsible for recovering those additional funds from pipeline companies.

"The 'polluter pays' principle will be enshrined in law so that it is clear Canadian taxpayers are not expected to foot the bill in the event of a major oil spill," said Rickford.   Continued...

 
Canada's Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie