Husky oil spill: pipeline project in area didn't trigger review, Environment Minister says
Project near leak didn't meet criteria for environmental assessment: Herb Cox
A Husky Energy pipeline expansion that is in the same area as last week's big oil spill didn't require an environmental assessment because it didn't meet the required criteria, Saskatchewan Environment Minister Herb Cox says.
The expansion approved in 2014 is a different location — but in roughly the same area east of Lloydminster — as the leak that sent as much as 250,000 litres of oil and other chemicals into the North Saskatchewan River.
In fact, the spill started shortly after Husky restarted the flow of oil through the expansion and other pipelines in the area.
Asked by Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger why the government didn't require a formal assessment of the expansion, Cox said there are six criteria used to determine if it's necessary.
"The technical experts looked at that at the time and determined that the proposed line that they were running didn't trigger ... any of those six criteria," he said.
One of the criteria is a development that can "cause widespread public concern because of potential environmental changes."
Asked why putting an oil pipeline under the river didn't trigger the assessment, Cox said a ministerial review of the spill might mean a different approach in future.
"In the review, that may be something that comes out — that perhaps some changes may be required in the future to prevent, certainly, something like this from ever happening again," Cox said.
Cox also said the government is working to figure out the long term environmental impact of the Husky oil spill.
So far, the slick has moved more than 500 kilometres down the North Saskatchewan River, imperilling the water supplies of North Battleford, Prince Albert and other communities.
Animal deaths recorded
Animals, trees and shoreline have been affected. Some 28 dead animals have been identified, provincial officials said Friday.
"There's 500 people on the ground right now — on the ground and in the water — with some 62 boats, I believe ... to continue the monitoring and the clean-up on the shoreline and try to determine what effects there is going to be."
Meanwhile, the federal Environment Department said Friday its enforcement officers have opened an investigation into the incident to determine whether there may have been a contravention of federal environmental and wildlife legislation.
6 criteria for environmental assessments
Here are the six criteria the province of Saskatchewan uses to determine whether a development requires and environmental assessment. If the project meets one of these criteria, it's supposed to trigger the formal assessment:
- have an effect on any unique, rare or endangered feature of the environment.
- substantially utilize any provincial resource and in so doing preempt the use, or potential use, of that resource for any other purpose.
- cause the emission of any pollutants or create by-products, residual or waste products which require handling and disposal in a manner that is not regulated by any other Act or regulation.
- cause widespread public concern because of potential environmental changes;
- involve a new technology that is concerned with resource utilization and that may induce significant environmental change.
- have a significant impact on the environment or necessitate a further development which is likely to have a significant impact on the environment.
With files from The Morning Edition