Canadian Environmental regulations are falling behind

Scott Vaughan, Canada’s departing Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, released his final report. In it he describes how the development of Canada’s natural resources is running dangerously ahead of Canada’s laws and policies to protect the environment.

The Pembina Institute highlights the clearest example:

Right now, the absolute (“no fault”) limit that oil and gas companies face if there’s an offshore spill is just $30 million on the Atlantic coast and $40 million in the Arctic.

Clearly, you can’t clean up a major oil spill for $40 million; you could barely build a community rec centre for that price. Indeed, as the report points out, BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill is estimated to have cost over US$40 billion. Canada’s current system leaves taxpayers on the hook for the costs above that liability cap, and the government hasn’t updated that limit in over 20 years.

In sharp contrast, Norway has no cap at all in its liability regime, providing a model that the federal government would be well advised to adopt…

But instead, as the Environment Commissioner’s office has documented, there’s a growing gap between development and protection. We’re flooring it on natural resource development while the laws and rules protecting our environment are stuck in neutral; in some cases, they’re actually in reverse.

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