Despite years of planning for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and myriad legislative changes that will affect the project, the regulations and best practices from other jurisdictions where tankers tread have not been put in place for British Columbia, studies find.
One review of legislation in Washington state, Alaska, Norway and other jurisdictions that see the type of tanker traffic that the West Coast can expect if the pipelines are approved found room for improvement.
"Canada has a good safety record. Having said that, there are important things we can learn from different jurisdictions," said Darryl Anderson, whose Wave Point Consulting has published several papers on the issues around the pipeline proposals in British Columbia.
The shipping industry is well-regulated in Canada, Anderson found, but the maritime sector too often makes improvements in response to a critical incident, he said.
Alaska, Washington and Norway "have a much more robust regulatory system and a much more robust assessment of risk prior to something happening, so you don't just have to rely on a marine incident to bring about change."
In particular, Anderson and his colleague, Joe Spears, recommend an independent agency responsible for conducting oil spill risk assessments and directing investment in spill prevention and response.
They suggest more stable funding for maritime policy measures, required emergency response drills, and the use of Canadian-flagged vessels for bulk oil transport.
Enbridge experts will return to Prince Rupert, on Monday, to resume testimony under oath about the $6 billion dollar pipeline project.
First up, they will be answering questions about one of the most contentious issues facing the Northern Gateway project: planning and response to marine oil spills.
The company has committed to "extended responsibility" for emergency response along the marine transportation routes. That would include spill response capacity even in the event of third-party tanker spills, but extended responsibility would not include clean-up costs or compensation.
"The tanker owner would remain the responsible party if a spill were to occur along the marine transportation routes," Northern Gateway confirms in documents filed with the review panel.
John Carruthers, president of Northern Gateway Pipelines, said the company has gone well beyond the regulatory requirements in order to ease concerns.
"I think people have questions and from a project perspective we're answering them. And I think there is recognition that some of the questions being asked are broader than any one project, and I think it's appropriate for government to be looking at it from that broader perspective," Carruthers said.
The hearings in Prince Rupert continue on and off in Prince Rupert over the next four months. The joint review panel must submit its report to the federal government by the end of the year.