Canada pledges to toughen oil tanker safety rules


OTTAWA -- The Canadian government said Tuesday it will toughen safety rules governing oil tankers as it seeks to address environmental concerns in British Columbia about shipping Alberta's heavy crude to Asian markets.

Resources Minister Joe Oliver and Transport Minister Denis Lebel were in Vancouver, British Columbia to unveil the proposals, which include establishing a panel tasked with recommending further changes to create a so-called "world-class" tanker safety system.

Opposition in British Columbia over Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has focused largely on the environmental threat to the Pacific Coast province. Among the worries is that British Columbia would be at risk of an Exxon Valdez-like oil spill.

A provincial election in British Columbia is scheduled for May, and the left-leaning provincial New Democratic Party -- which opposes the Gateway project -- appears poised to take power.

"There will be no pipeline development without rigorous environmental protection measures and the tanker safety initiatives are an important aspect of our plan for responsible resource development," Mr. Oliver said.

As envisaged by Enbridge, the Gateway pipeline is a 730-mile corridor that would carry crude from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific port of Kitimat, British Columbia. Once in Kitimat, the crude would go onto tankers bound for Asia.

Among the new measures the federal government is looking to implement immediately are: increasing the number of inspectors to oversee foreign tankers; expanding surveillance efforts; increasing the number of ports subjected to federal regulations, including Kitimat; and allocating money for research into non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to better understand what would happen in the event of a spill.

Dow Jones Newswires

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