The CEO of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board says his agency is preparing for tougher rules to try to prevent oil spills after the federal auditor of Canadian environmental regulations criticized it for not being adequately prepared.
Scott Vaughan, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, released a report earlier this week that concluded the two offshore petroleum boards in Atlantic Canada are not prepared to respond to a major oil spill.
"While the Canada-Nova Scotia and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador boards have adequately managed the day-to-day environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas activities, they and their federal partners need to do more to prepare for a major oil spill," Vaughan said in a statement.
Stuart Pinks, the CEO of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, said the concerns are not new and work on new rules is underway.
"People recognize that natural gas is being produced — we're not producing oil at the moment — and we're not expecting to be drilling for oil or exploring for oil until about 2015," he told CBC's Information Morning Nova Scotia.
"We as a board recognize some additional steps and measures that need to be in place ahead of drilling for oil in 2015. We have the commitment from federal partners out of Ottawa to work with us to get ready for 2015 and I'm confident we'll be there."
Pinks also said concerns about the liability of oil and gas companies are not well understood and in most cases, there's no financial limit on the potential damages.
"If the board was ever to have to step in and spend, effectively, government money, if the party is at fault or negligent the sky's the limit in terms of liabilities," he said.
Pinks said the only exception is for a so-called act of God, such as a tsunami — but that is also up for review.
"It says that if you're the operator and a spill occurs from your platform, it's not your fault or you're not negligent, then the liability amount is up to $30 million that they can collect," he said.
Meanwhile, provincial Energy Minister Charlie Parker also said the province will be ready to handle offshore oil disasters by 2015, when the first offshore oil drilling begins.
"We're working with the federal departments and agencies to co-ordinate the work and we fortunately do have a little bit of time on our side to make sure we do get ready," said Parker.
"We just want to make sure that the protection is there and I believe we're headed in the right direction."