Escorted tanker passes sails through Second Narrows after loading at Westridge Terminal in Burnaby

B.C. moving to tighten oil spill law

Regulations for pipeline protection to take effect next year, Ottawa needed to reach 'world leading' oil spill protection at sea

The B.C. government has introduced changes to its environmental law to require more oil spill prevention measures and to enforce cleanup and restoration if a spill takes place on land.

Environment Minister Mary Polak said Monday the new regulations and penalties are expected to take effect in early 2017, to fulfil one of the province’s conditions for approving new heavy oil transport projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The goal is to impose “world leading” spill prevention and response capability on land, and to work with the federal government to establish the same standard at sea, which is Ottawa’s responsibility.

Polak released a new report from consultants Nuka Research that surveyed other spill protection systems around the world.

It compared practices in Australia, Europe, the U.S., Norway and the ship escort system used in Prince William Sound, Alaska after the crude oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989. The Alaska system includes a network of trained, on-call fishing vessels and crew that can provide an immediate first response to incidents at sea.

Polak said the legislation and regulations will update a system that hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

“Our old regulatory scheme really only placed requirements on industries after a spill had occurred,” Polak said. “The biggest change here is the scope of this, where we’re requiring them to have plans in place. We’re also requiring them to have plans to prevent a spill from ever occurring.”