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Cayley-Daoust says Trudeau’s pipeline spill liability rules are weak

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust says the Trudeau government is underestimating the potential costs of a pipeline spill.

The Canadian Press reports, “The federal government is reducing the size of a proposed emergency fund that pipeline operators would be required to have on hand to deal with short-term costs of incidents such as spills. Natural Resources Canada says that the fund proposed under the new Pipeline Safety Act would bring down the minimum amount of ‘readily available’ money to at least five percent of a company’s liability. The amount is a reduction from the 10 percent originally proposed when consultations began on the act more than a year ago.”

“If adopted, regulations would require a large company with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day to demonstrate it can cover cleanup bills of $1 billion. The ‘readily available’ fund requirement at five per cent would thus be $50 million. No such fund was required under previous pipeline rules.”

The article highlights, “[The draft regulations] cited the two largest spills in Canada between 2007 and 2014 that cost $137 million and $42 million, respectively, to clean up.  However, Daniel Cayley-Daoust with the Council of Canadians says the department should also consider damage from spills outside of Canada, pointing out that Calgary-based Enbridge has estimated it will cost US$1.2 billion [about Cdn$1.6 billion] to clean up a 2010 pipeline oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.”

The 290,000 barrel per day Enbridge Line 6B pipeline spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels of heavy crude into the Kalamazoo River system. At the time of the spill, the pipeline was moving 190,000 barrels per day. Inside Climate News has reported, “Ultimately, the oil reached nearly [64 kilometres] downriver, coating animals and fouling 4,435 acres of land near the river’s banks. It triggered a massive cleanup effort and kept the river closed for nearly two years.”

In comparison, the Trans Canada Energy East pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels a day and cross 2,900 waterways. The leak detection system for the Energy East pipeline can only detect leaks greater than 1.5 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity. That means an undetected leak could release up to 16,500 barrels in a single day. In the case of a major incident, more than 62,000 barrels of oil could be spilled in the 13 minutes Trans Canada says it would need to shut its valves, while more than 144,000 barrels could be spilled if valves were shut down within two hours.

An actual situation could be even worse than this.

Similarly, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline would move 890,000 barrels per day and cross 1,309 watercourses. The Trudeau government is set to decide on the Kinder Morgan pipeline on December 19.

The regulations were posted on October 8 are now subject to a 30-day discussion period (likely meaning the comment period ends on November 6).

The Canada Gazette notes, “Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Christine Siminowski, Director, Energy Systems Management, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada, 580 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E4 (tel.: 343-292-6272; email:”

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