Enhancing Environmental Protection

March 23, 2014

The Government of Canada believes that economic prosperity and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive goals. Through our plan for Responsible Resource Development, no major natural resource project will receive federal approval unless it is safe for the environment and for Canadians. We are taking comprehensive action to ensure Canada’s vast resource wealth can be produced and transported to market responsibly by putting environmental safety first.

Enhancing enforcement and liability

As part of its plan for Responsible Resource Development, the Government of Canada intends to enshrine in legislation the principle of ‘polluter pays.’ Companies operating major oil pipelines will be required to have a minimum financial capability of $1 billion to respond to any incident and remedy damage.

The government is also strengthening Canada’s nuclear liability regime through proposed new legislation to increase the amount of compensation available to address civil damage from $75 million to $1 billion. As well, the government intends to join the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage to bolster Canada’s domestic compensation regime by bringing additional funding for compensation provided by member countries up to $450 million.

The government will introduce legislative amendments to enhance Canada’s world-class offshore petroleum regime. The government plans to raise the absolute liability for companies operating in the offshore to $1 billion from $30 million or $40 million, and operators’ liability will remain unlimited in cases of fault or negligence. Companies operating projects in the offshore will be required to have a minimum financial capability of $1 billion to respond to any incident and remedy damage. The government is also increasing the amount of unfettered financial resources that operators will be required to provide to regulators to $100 million.

As well, the Government of Canada has introduced tough new financial penalties to preventively address contraventions to environmental laws. The measures provide the authority for the National Energy Board, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Canada’s offshore boards to levy administrative and monetary penalties quickly so larger issues do not arise in the future. These fines can range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 per day.

World-class Pipeline and Marine Transportation

Pipelines are a safe, efficient and reliable way for Canada to move its oil products. Most of the major pipelines in Canada are under the oversight of the National Energy Board (NEB), an independent federal regulatory agency, which ensures environmental protection during the planning, construction, operation and abandonment of pipelines. Between 2008 and 2011, over 99.999 percent of crude oil transported by federally regulated pipelines was transported safely, without incident.1

The Government of Canada is striving to maintain and improve this safety record by focussing on both prevention and response. It is:

  • Increasing the number of annual inspections by the National Energy Board for oil and gas pipelines by 50 percent;
  • Doubling the number of comprehensive audits for oil and gas pipelines to identify safety issues before they occur;
  • Making senior company leadership accountable for building a safety culture and supporting management systems;
  • Ensuring that pipeline operators are responsible for abandoned pipelines; and,
  • Improving transparency by ensuring companies’ emergency and environmental plans are easily available to the public.

Oil products have been safely transported in Canadian waters for decades without major incident, thanks to a strong tanker safety system, including double-hulled ships, modern navigation systems and on-board pilots in mandatory pilotage zones.

While the current marine safety system has served Canada well, it is essential to strengthen it to meet future needs, as the transportation of Canadian exports is expected to grow. Through Responsible Resource Development, the Government of Canada is enhancing safety for shipping on both the east and west coasts of Canada with the implementation of its world-class tanker safety system. This system enhances our commitment to prevention, as well as outlinings enhanced response capacity through the implementation of eight tanker safety measures, including increased tanker inspections, systematic surveillance and monitoring of ships, the establishment of a Canadian Coast Guard Incident Command System, an enhanced navigation system, and new and modified aids to navigation. The Government has also introduced the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act and created a Tanker Safety Expert Panel to review Canada's current system and propose further measures to strengthen it.

Rigorous environmental standards and monitoring

Canada’s Responsible Resource Development plan commits to better environmental performance by improving enforcement and compliance. This includes the introduction of new enforceable environmental assessment decision statements and inspection authorities to ensure the implementation of project mitigation measures to protect the environment.

Canada is also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, the Government of Canada is taking a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to achieve environmental and economic benefits for all Canadians. We have already taken action on two of Canada’s largest sources of emissions: the transportation sector, with regulations for light- and heavy-duty vehicles, and the electricity sector.

We have also made significant investments in science and technology to support clean energy, enhance energy efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of conventional and non-conventional energy extraction. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions in the oil sands have decreased by 26 percent per barrel from 1990 to 2011.

The Government of Canada also intends to develop regulations in the oil and gas sector. We are focused on an approach to greenhouse gas regulations that will reduce emissions while continuing to create jobs and encouraging the growth of the Canadian economy. These efforts are showing results: Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 4.8 percent while its economy has grown 8.4 percent from 2005 to 2011.

The Government is also strengthening environmental protection. The Government of Canada, in partnership with the Province of Alberta, is implementing a comprehensive, transparent environmental monitoring system in the oil sands to monitor the impacts of oil sands activity on air, water, land and biodiversity. Oil sands monitoring data and information are available to the public through a new online data portal (www.jointoilsandsmonitoring.ca).

1 Between 2008 and 2011, unintended liquid releases from NEB-regulated pipelines averaged 1,759 barrels per year, while the total volume transported was 1.2 billion barrels per year.

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