An environmental studies professor said she agrees with a federal report which says the C-NLOPB would be hard pressed to deal with a major oil spill on the Grand Banks.

Gail Fraser, an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, said government, regulators, and oil companies would have great difficulty dealing with an oil spill similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

"That spill [the Deepwater Horizon] was only 80 km offshore," said Fraser. "So if we're looking at a Newfoundland scenario where it's hundreds of kilometres offshore in a very rough environment, it's going to take a lot of resources to try and do anything."

Singles out C-NLOPB

On Tuesday, Scott Vaughan, the federal environment commissioner, released his final audit of Canada's environment regulations. He singled out concern for the C-NLOPB, questioning whether the regulator and oil companies have been doing enough to prepare for a major offshore oil spill in the North Atlantic. 

Fraser has studied the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board for more than a decade. She pointed out that oil companies currently have a $30-million liability cap in the event of an oil spill on the Grand Banks, and she suggested that should be expanded to an unlimited cap on liability on the oil companies.

Hopes for improvements

Fraser admitted that an unlimited liability cap was unlikely to happen.

She did say, though, that she hoped the C-NLOPB would make improvements in its offshore spill readiness. 

"I think that the C-NLOPB has agreed to follow the recommendations by the auditor general," said Fraser.

"I'm hopeful that internally the C-NLOPB can do a better job of systematically evaluating the environmental impacts on the offshore."