Newspaper article The Canadian Press

With Pipeline Decision Looming, Ottawa Tweaks Tanker Safety Rules

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

With Pipeline Decision Looming, Ottawa Tweaks Tanker Safety Rules

Article excerpt

Canada to change regulations on oil tankers

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VANCOUVER - With a decision expected next month on the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia, the federal government announced new measures Tuesday to strengthen its oil-spill response regime and placate a reluctant public.

Those changes include removing a $161-million cap on payouts from a national oil spill compensation fund and making the entire $400-million fund available to cover the costs of a marine spill.

"With these changes, Canada will have the most robust and comprehensive liability and compensation system for spills from ships anywhere in the world," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in Saint John, N.B., far from the eye of the oil tanker storm on the West Coast.

"We want to make sure that if there is a spill ... that it is not the Canadian taxpayer, that it is the polluter who pays at the end of the day."

The proposed changes failed to convert pipeline critics, who said the entire Canadian Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund wouldn't scratch the surface in a worst-case scenario spill off the B.C. coast.

"That's really not good enough," said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, a coalition of aboriginal communities along the north and central B.C. coast that opposes the pipelines.

The changes offer no comfort to those concerned about the increased tanker traffic that would result from Northern Gateway or Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline through central B.C. to Port Metro Vancouver, he said.

The unlimited liability of the fund was one of 45 recommendations from an expert panel on tanker safety that reported last fall.

Raitt said up to $1.6 billion in total is available in compensation and to cover damages in the event of a spill through the ship owners' insurance, the domestic fund, and the international Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund. Both are funded by levies on the shipping industry.

If all of those funds are exhausted, the federal government would pay compensation and then recover the money from industry, she said.

Sterritt said taxpayers could still be on the hook.

But B. …

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