On August 18, 2010, following 6-weeks of fact-finding hearings to determine the status of Canada’s offshore drilling operations, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources released its report entitled Facts do not Justify Banning Canada’s Current Offshore Drilling Operations: A Senate Review in the Wake if BP’s Deepwater Horizon Disaster.
As the name suggests, the report is as a direct consequence of concerns expressed by Canadians following the BP incident earlier in the year, which saw millions of crude oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico in the United States worst environmental disaster on record. The goal was to review Canada’s federal and provincial regulatory schemes which govern offshore oil and gas exploration and establish whether there was an imminent risk to Canada’s environment along the three coast (Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific).
After 9 hearings and hearing from 26 witnesses, again, as the name of the report suggests, the committee found that both the provincial and federal regimes work well and that the absence of evidence to the contrary does not justify a temporary or permanent ban or moratorium on current Canadian offshore operations. Nonetheless, the report cautioned that any future offshore drilling operations will need to be carefully regulated and controlled within the legislative regimes currently in place, and the Committee made 6 recommendations as to what should be considered when approving future offshore drilling operations in Canadian waters, which included a recommendation that there be greater collaboration between all parties responsible for responding to oil spills in developing, preparing and practicing in advance of an event, as well as a recommendation that there be a comprehensive review of the issue of liability, including whether thresholds should be adjusted to reflect “current economic realities”.
The 77-page report can be viewed in its entirety here.