The British Columbia Government is examining the Government of Canada’s wide-ranging activities related to spill management as it proposes new provincial spill regulations, Transport Canada in a recent submission to the BC Environment Ministry.

In January 2018, the BC ministry asked for feedback on its proposal to develop a provincial spill management regime, inviting comment from the public, governments, first responders and First Nation communities on a ‘policy intentions paper.’ The opportunity to provide feedback closed last week.

In its submission, Transport Canada highlights that “BC failed to recognize the scope and extent of federal actions, research, and spill management policies encompassing robust federal safety regimes, scientific expertise, and the $1.5 billion dollar Oceans Protection Plan developed by the Government of Canada for spill management.” For example, Canada’s marine safety regime is made up of 100 regulations, 30 acts and international agreements and commitments from many agencies and organizations over several decades.

The national transportation regulator said Canada’s world-leading regime includes prevention, preparedness, spill response, liability and compensation for all transportation of petroleum, including moving oil by water. Canada’s marine safety regime is focused on preventing incidents from occurring at all.

Transport Canada is the certified regulator for marine spill response for Canada’s West Coast and is responsible for ensuring the regime is comprehensive and aligned with other transportation regimes across the country and internationally.

Transport Canada’s submission provides Canadians with a complete and in-depth picture of spill management in Canada. Here are some key points in the submission:

Oil spill science and research expertise is well-established

  • The federal government has been conducting oil spill and spill response research for more than 30 years. Canada is a leading contributor to the global body of scientific knowledge of the fate and behaviour of petroleum products, including for diluted bitumen on marine and fresh water.
  • Fifty scientists, technologists, chemists and engineers have participated in studies to determine the fate and behaviour of spilled oil, its potential impacts and effectiveness of response techniques on a variety of heavy oil products. More than 60 peer-reviewed papers on diluted bitumen science have been published by those scientists since 2012.
  • Scientific evidence and real-world experience indicate diluted bitumen behaves similar to conventional oil products. Conventional mechanical recovery methods are proven effective.
  • The federal government continues to increase investments in science and research initiatives aimed at improving the safe transport of oil products, spill recovery and response.
  • The Government of Canada has established a national ship-source oil spill regime comprised of three key areas: prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation.

Marine spill management regime already in place

  • Federal agencies responsible for marine safety and spill response oversight and science include Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
  • Through new legislation and major investments, such as the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is dramatically strengthening this already robust regime.
  • The private sector-funded Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, certified by Transport Canada, is the responder for all marine oil spills along BC’s coastline.

Pipeline system safety oversight and emergency response plans in place

  • Canada has one of the most rigorous and effective pipeline safety systems in the world.
  • The Pipeline Safety Act outlines a comprehensive liability and compensation regime to ensure Canadians are protected from costs and damages and that the environment is protected in the event of a spill.
  • Companies must have a comprehensive Emergency Management Program in place.
  • The Government of Canada continues to strengthen regulations related to pipelines.
  • Clear and comprehensive regulatory requirements for prevention and preparedness, supported by rigorous regulatory compliance.

Canada’s federally-regulated pipeline systems rank among the safest in the world. Canada’s ongoing commitment to the safety of constructing and operating pipelines is demonstrated by the 157 conditions required by the Canadian Government for the federally-approved Trans Mountain Expansion Project. 

The Government of Canada continues to engage British Columbia to provide accurate knowledge of the world-class spill regime that exists across the country.  Trans Mountain is committed to continuously improving our existing operations and enhancing the federally-approved Expansion Project through ongoing engagement, research, advancements in technology and stringent federal regulations.