(Adds regulator’s comment on hiring, oversight criticism)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A sharp downturn in Canada’s oil patch that has caused thousands of layoffs has made it easier for the country’s energy regulator to find and hire experienced staff, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Canada’s National Energy Board has recently hired more than a dozen people focused on pipeline safety, NEB’s Peter Watson told reporters after a speech in Toronto.
“We’re very focused on attracting some of the talent that has been leaving the industry as a result of the downturn,” he said.
The regulator’s comments come a day after an official environmental watchdog said the NEB is doing a poor job of monitoring pipeline firms.
In response to the report, Watson said the NEB is tracking corporate adherence to the conditions imposed on pipeline approvals.
“We’re doing more than ever to be transparent about the work we do,” he said in the speech.
The federal government plans to unveil new transitional rules for environmental reviews of major pipeline projects after stocks markets close on Wednesday.
Watson said that despite the policy flux, a review of Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain pipeline was still on track to be delivered by May.
He also said the NEB would soon update its rules on how much detail companies must publicly report about their emergency management plans.
In his speech, Watson, said the country’s crude production will likely increase out to a 2040 timeframe regardless of whether pipelines are built or the price of oil, and that greenhouse gas emissions would rise too without aggressive and targeted government policy. (Additional writing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)