The Bill will enshrine for the first time in National Energy Board legislation the “polluter pays” principle, making pipeline companies fully responsible for the costs and damages they cause through the release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline.
Both Canada and the US governments have copped heat from environmentalists over the Keystone proposal, and several measures in Canada's new legislation tackles these at a macro and community level.
The new legislation also clarifies and expands the audit and inspection powers of the NEB and expands the NEB’s powers to ensure companies operating pipelines remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines.
The government said 99.99% of the oil transported through 73,000km of federally regulated pipeline was currently “completed safely”, including 1500km in Quebec.
The legislation introduces “absolute liability” for all NEB regulated pipelines, so companies will be liable for costs and damages – irrespective of fault — up to $C1 billion for major oil pipelines, while companies continue to have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent.
It also empowers the NEB to order reimbursement of any clean-up costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals and gives NEB the authority and resources to assume control of incident response if a company is unable or unwilling to do so.
Canada’s government is also working on non-legislative measures around pipeline safety by working with Aboriginal communities and industry to develop a strategy to “better integrate” Aboriginal people in pipeline safety operations.
The government is seeking guidance from the NEB on the use of best available technologies for pipeline projects.
All these improvements are connected to the federal government’s plan for “responsible resource development” to strengthen environmental protection, enhance Aboriginal engagement and streamline the review of major resource projects to make the regulatory process more timely and predictable.
New funding provided in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 allowed the NEB to increase annual inspections of oil and gas pipelines by 50% and double the number of comprehensive audits to improve pipeline safety across the country.
The government also said that over 400,000 Aboriginal youths would enter the workforce over the next decade, “creating an unprecedented opportunity to address the need for new workers in the oil and gas industry”
Over 13,500 Aboriginal people worked within the Canadian energy sector in 2012.