Saskatchewan expands pipeline inspections in wake of Husky oil spill

The provincial government is beefing up its oversight of pipelines in Saskatchewan in the wake of the Husky Energy spill that dumped as much as 250,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River in July.

80,000 new flowlines to be licensed, new powers for ministry staff

Oil from a Husky Energy pipeline leaked as much as 250,000 litres of crude oil into the North Saskatchewan River in July. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The provincial government is beefing up its oversight of pipelines in Saskatchewan in the wake of the Husky Energy spill that dumped as much as 250,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River in July.

Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan introduced new legislation this afternoon, which he says addresses concerns raised by the provincial auditor in 2012.

One of the auditor's recommendations was for the province to monitor not only pipelines, but thousands of smaller flowlines, which take oil from a wellhead to a storage facility, for instance.

In 2012, the auditor said the province did not have any "records of where the flowlines are located in the province or if pipeline operators have designed, constructed and are operating them according to the law."

Duncan says the province will begin licensing the more than 80,000 flowlines, which have been exempt until now.

"We'll work with industry and with companies that might have purchased a well location with a flowline ...that was maybe built 40 years ago," Duncan said. They'll have to work to locate that flowline, he said. 

Keeping a closer eye

The province will also establish new inspection, investigation and audit powers for ministry staff as well as update its penalty provisions.

The Opposition says the government needs to move away from what it calls the "fox in the chicken coop" model, where companies do their own inspections. 

The NDP's Cathy Sproule says the government must provide the proper resources for ministry staff to do inspections.

The government says it will require financial assurances from companies that operate pipelines in high-risk locations such as water crossings. It will also follow up on another recommendation from the auditor to make it a legal requirement for companies to clean up any environmental issues following a pipeline abandonment.

The government says today's new rules are just an interim measure. Once the province's investigation into the Husky spill is complete, the government will decide if more rule changes are required.