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NEWS: Canadian offshore drilling regulations relaxed last year

The Canwest News Service reports that, “Canadian regulators relaxed offshore drilling regulations (in December 2009), giving the energy industry more flexibility when putting in place safeguards against oil spills.”

“Previously, companies were required to install specific kinds of equipment, such as safety valves and blowout preventers. The old regulations outlined everything from how companies should cement the casing on an oil well, to how they should conduct pressure tests.”

“Under the new regulations, well operators must set environmental-protection goals, list the equipment they will use to achieve those goals and disclose their plans for inspecting, testing and maintaining such gear. However, they are not required to install any specific equipment.”

The same type of deregulation of safeguards has happened in the United States. “In a recent investigation, the Wall Street Journal found that the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), which regulates offshore drilling south of the border, has been gradually shifting safety responsibility to the oil industry.”

That said, even in the U.S., “drilling regulations enforced by the MMS lay out detailed requirements for what equipment operators must use.”

So why not this same requirement in Canada?

According to the news report, “The federal government conducted more than three years of stakeholder consultations into the regulatory changes, beginning in 2005. According to government documents, regulators had been receiving a growing number of requests from companies to use technologies or processes not included in the regulations, creating ‘increased administrative challenges and costs.'”

Hopefully today’s meeting of the House of Commons Natural Resources committee will get to the bottom of this and press for a reversal of this deregulation on current operations.

There are currently three oil rigs off the coast of Newfoundland (the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose platforms). On Sunday Chevron started drilling for oil 2.5 kilometres underwater northeast of Newfoundland in an area known as the Orphan Basin.

ExxonMobil is the majority owner of the offshore Sable natural gas project located near Sable Island, Nova Scotia.

Additionally, we are calling for a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region.

To see our ‘ACTION ALERT: Demand a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic’, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3544.

The Canwest News Service article is at http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Canadian+offshore+drilling+regulations+relaxed+last+year/3010351/story.html.