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Bill C-46: What it means for pipelines, polluters and you

Kalamazoo Enbridge oil spill aftermath, now estimated at US$1.2 Billion to clean
Kalamazoo Enbridge oil spill aftermath, now estimated at US$1.2 Billion to clean
Ian Miron, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, Bill C-46: What it means for pipelines, polluters and you, 01/03/15

At this very moment, Canada’s liability regime is woefully inadequate when it comes to making sure that polluters pay in the event of a pipeline rupture or oil spill. That means that Canadian taxpayers like you would shoulder an inappropriate degree of the risk in the event of a serious pipeline accident, like Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan.

According to recent estimates, Enbridge has spent $1.2 billion trying to clean up that inland spill — the largest in United States history. By comparison, Canada’s strictest liability law would have only made Enbridge automatically liable for a paltry $40 million, while providing the company with an opportunity to wriggle off the hook for any further costs.

Now consider that a number of controversial new pipeline projects have been proposed in Canada, each bigger than the last. Between Enbridge’s Northern Gateway (525,000 barrels per day), Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion (890,000 barrels per day) and TransCanada’s Energy East (1.1 million barrels per day), thousands of Canadians may find pipeline infrastructure — locking us into a fossil-fuel economy for another generation — snaking right through their backyards.

Each project comes with an array of heavy environmental risks, including significant upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions. But for many Canadians, the very real threat of a major oil spill is a tangible and pressing concern, which is why it is absolutely imperative that Canada bring in a stricter, more comprehensive liability regime.

The good news is there is some progress to report. Earlier this month, the federal government introduced Bill C-46 in the House of Commons. If passed into law, Bill C-46 would completely overhaul the statutory liability regime for federally-regulated pipelines in Canada.