Nfld. & Labrador

C-NLOPB, governments talk prevention in wake of 'absolute disappointment' of 2018

The CEO of the regulatory board says he's been assured the federal and provincial governments will provide any new needed resources.

Regulatory CEO says he's assured governments will provide additional resources if necessary

Provincial Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady was part of a meeting Friday among the C-NLOPB, and provincial and federal governments to discuss ways to improve offshore industry safety. (John Pike/CBC)

After three oil spills in 10 months, Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry regulator met Friday with provincial and federal government officials to discuss how to prevent future spills, but so far no concrete steps have emerged.

At a press conference Friday after the meeting, provincial Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady stressed the importance of safety in the offshore industry.

"Safety and environmental protection are paramount, and we expect our operators and we expect our offshore to be managed and utilized in a safe way," Coady said.

Coady said the meeting discussed the SeaRose floating production storage and offloading vessel spilling 250,000 litres of oil into the North Atlantic in November, and two separate Hibernia spills resulting in 12,000 litres and 2,200 litres dumped into the ocean earlier this summer.

Coady said the spills are still under review, but  added there appears to be no common thread connecting each one. 

According to Husky Energy, this connector was the culprit of a spill that sent 250,000 litres of oil into the Atlantic Ocean in November 2018. (Husky Energy)

The focus of Friday's discussion was to find preventive measures and environmental and workplace safety, as well as a review of the existing regulatory framework.

Higher frequency

Scott Tessier, CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, acknowledged "2018 was an absolute disappointment in terms of performance," and said the federal and provincial governments have assured him the regulator will have any additional resources it needs.

He said that could include more frequent visits to offshore facilities, with any extra spending expected to be funded by the industry, although no concrete plans were announced.

But Tessier also said he doesn't believe there needs to be additional observers on offshore oil production sites, adding that officials visit sites every two to three months to review environmental compliance, safety and well operations.

Scott Tessier, chief executive office for the C-NLOPB, says the regulatory board will be provided additional resources from federal and provincial governments if necessary. (John Pike/CBC)

"The hypothetical scenario we ran was, what does that person or those people do? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions and operational activities that are undertaken on the offshore on a daily basis," he said.

"The discussion we had today is about how we can better sharpen our focus in terms of our offshore presence to ensure that we're anticipating and we're responding to where the risks lie." 

Excellent safety record

Despite offshore accidents including the Ocean Ranger disaster, the Cougar helicopter crash and oil spills, Tessier said the province's safety record is excellent compared with others around the world. 

"I certainly am not dismissive of those, but the safety record apart from that has been quite positive," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Marie Isabelle Rochon