Walking The Line: Overview Of Federal And Provincial Environmental Legislation Governing The Canadian Oil Pipeline Sector

Author:Mr Alan Ross
Profession:Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Canada is the seventh-largest producer of crude oil and the third-largest producer of natural gas in the world. Crude oil from Alberta's oil sands currently represents about 50% of oil production in Canada and it is estimated that by 2015 it will account for more than 90% of Canadian crude oil production. The majority of Canada's oil production (65% of 2.73 million barrels per day as of fall 2011) is exported to the United States.

The sheer size and scope of Canada's oil and gas industry and the environmental degradation associated with oil and gas practices can appear to contradict with Canada's heritage of strong environmental stewardship of the Canadian wilderness. This conflict requires a thorough understanding of the regulatory bodies, legislation and policies associated with Canada's oil and gas industry and pipeline infrastructure.

The power to regulate environmental protection in Canada is split between federal and provincial jurisdictions. Federal regulatory bodies like the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have a very important role to play in international and inter-provincial gas transportation and commerce. Both of these bodies are heavily involved in the business of pipelines and their relevant approvals, permits, spill monitoring, response efforts and enforcement. The National Energy Board (NEB) is the primary federal energy regulatory agency which regulates onshore and offshore development in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut as well as offshore areas not within provincial jurisdiction. The purpose of the NEB is to promote safety and security, environmental protection, and efficient energy infrastructure in the Canadian "public interest". This means that when deciding to approve an energy application, the NEB balances the economic interests of the project with the overall public good and the project's negative impacts.

Federal legislation like the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act and Environmental Enforcement Act provide a patchwork of environmental legislation which cover the release and spill of petroleum products into the environment and what due diligence and reports must be conducted. If there is a chance that a pipeline might impact...

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