Canada is the seventh-largest producer of crude oil and the
third-largest producer of natural gas in the world. Crude oil from
Alberta's oil sands currently represents about 50% of oil
production in Canada and it is estimated that by 2015 it will
account for more than 90% of Canadian crude oil production. The
majority of Canada's oil production (65% of 2.73 million
barrels per day as of fall 2011) is exported to the United
The sheer size and scope of Canada's oil and gas industry
and the environmental degradation associated with oil and gas
practices can appear to contradict with Canada's heritage of
strong environmental stewardship of the Canadian wilderness. This
conflict requires a thorough understanding of the regulatory
bodies, legislation and policies associated with Canada's oil
and gas industry and pipeline infrastructure.
The power to regulate environmental protection in Canada is
split between federal and provincial jurisdictions. Federal
regulatory bodies like the National Energy Board and the Canadian
Environmental Assessment Agency have a very important role to play
in international and inter-provincial gas transportation and
commerce. Both of these bodies are heavily involved in the business
of pipelines and their relevant approvals, permits, spill
monitoring, response efforts and enforcement. The National Energy
Board (NEB) is the primary federal energy regulatory agency which
regulates onshore and offshore development in the Northwest
Territories, Yukon, Nunavut as well as offshore areas not within
provincial jurisdiction. The purpose of the NEB is to promote
safety and security, environmental protection, and efficient energy
infrastructure in the Canadian "public interest". This
means that when deciding to approve an energy application, the NEB
balances the economic interests of the project with the overall
public good and the project's negative impacts.
Federal legislation like the Canadian Environmental Protection
Act, Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act, Canadian Environmental
Assessment Act, Fisheries Act and Environmental Enforcement Act
provide a patchwork of environmental legislation which cover the
release and spill of petroleum products into the environment and
what due diligence and reports must be conducted. If there is a
chance that a pipeline might impact navigable waters and fish
habitat, populations of species at risk or migratory birds, federal
approvals and regulations may apply. Furthermore, the oil and gas
sector may become subject to federal legislation which regulates,
controls and restricts greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Provincial regulators and legislation also play a large role in
the regulation of oil pipelines, although the scope or regulation
differs among provinces. For instance in Alberta, the Energy
Resources and Conservation Board (ERCB) through ERCB Directive 071:
Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Upstream
Petroleum Industry regulates and enforces spills, spill contingency
plans, resources and personnel available to remedy spills.
Alberta's provincial environmental legislation such as Oil and
Gas Conservation Regulations and the Environmental Protection and
Enhancement Act governs the release of petroleum and its potential
release including reporting requirements, spill procedures and
enforcement of offenses.
Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act, now in its third
reading, seeks to establish one provincial regulator for all
Alberta oil. This new regulator would combine the approval process
and environmental regulation into a "one stop shop".
The effect of giving authority over environmental protection and
regulation to both federal and provincial jurisdiction is to
require coordination, to avoid duplication and overlap, while
maintaining consistency among the various provinces and achieving
coverage for spills and releases which cross provincial
Although the status of pipeline spill regulation is still in
transition, there exists a plethora of federal and provincial
regulatory bodies, legislation and regulations which provide
overlapping regulation of oil and gas pipelines and any spills
which may result.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
In June, 2016, Justice Faieta of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded damages of $57,712.31 plus interest against legal counsel who failed to file a claim within the required limitation period.
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