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article imageRegulator: Canadians don't need to worry about a BP disaster

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By Stephanie Dearing     Jun 3, 2010 in Environment
Saint John's - A Canadian offshore petroleum regulator told media representatives during a press conference June 2 that Canada does not have to worry about a BP disaster occurring off Canada's east coast.
While the latest offshore oil project for Canada involves a well being drilled in water that is double the size of Deepwater Horizon's area, the accidental spill was the result of bad practices and negligence, said Max Ruelokke, the CEO of Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Ruelokke spoke to reporters via a teleconference Wednesday. The Globe & Mail reported Ruelokke as saying “We believe things were done in the Gulf that were not in compliance with regulations and probably not even good oil field practices."
But even though Ruelokke expressed confidence in Canada's ability to avoid a major environmental offshore oil disaster, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board quietly announced Wednesday it is scrutinizing its requirements for offshore drilling; particularly the specification that a company has to demonstrate it has $350 million in cash to deal with a spill, reports VOCM. However, any new rules would need to be cemented by provincial and federal regulatory bodies.
Chevron has been drilling its second deepwater oil well in Orphan Basin, off the coast of Newfoundland since May 9. The well is 2,600 meters below the surface. Ruelokke said Tuesday "We think it is safe to go ahead with the well; we don’t think there is any additional risk." Chevron also issued reassurances to the public ahead of starting the drilling, reported The Telegram. "... we have redoubled our efforts with extra due diligence and focusing on, in particular, the blowout preventer ... We've done a full inspection and testing of the blowout system, and all of the functions of that. Everything is good to go. We're very confident that we're ready to drill this well safely."
CBC News reported that Chevron spilled 74,000 litres of a lubricant called drilling mud in 2007 in the Orphan Basin. CBC's report said that while the public knows about the spill, there has been no further information about clean-up. CBC News reported the Government of Newfoundland said the spill did not pose a threat to the environment reported. Newfoundland's Natural Resources Minister, Kathy Dunderdale spoke in the House of Assembly, saying the spill was the result of "... a terrible storm on that day. The drill rig had to disconnect because it was at very high risk and there was a spill ... Mr. Speaker, it didn't rise to the surface, it had no effect on fish, and it had no effect on birds. The only organisms that it would have impacted are those that were crawling on the sea floor and not able to get away." CBC said a new study on drilling lubricant demonstrates that it is harmful to fish and fish eggs.
Newfoundland NDP representative, Lorraine Michael, asked "Mr. Speaker, the Gulf of Mexico experience has shown us that the technology of capping a deepwater oil well after a blow out is primitive and experimental. Mr. Speaker, no matter how good an oil company’s and other associated industry’s technology might be at this moment at pumping oil, there is no one with any ability to stop a deepwater spill.
So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why are we continuing drilling in deep water when the world wide industry does not have effective, timely means for capping a blow out at such depths?"
Dunderdale responded by saying the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board was being extra-vigilant of offshore drilling activities since the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Canada's regulations governing offshore oil drilling were loosened up by the federal government in late 2009, and ever since the Deepwater Horizon spill, Canada's opposition parties have been demanding that Canada tighten its offshore oil drilling regulations.
The Federal NDP presented a motion in parliament Wednesday, proposing " ... to immediately conduct a thorough and transparent review of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of unconventional sources of oil and gas, with full public participation, and to report to the House for appropriate action." The motion, which had originally been opposed by the ruling Conservative party, ended up being adopted unanimously.
According to the website for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the "... Board’s safety mandate is: To verify that operators have appropriate safety plans in place; To verify, through audits and inspections, that operators follow their safety plans and applicable statutory requirements; To verify, through compliance actions, that deviations from approved plans and applicable statutory requirements are corrected."
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