Statement from the CNSOPB regarding Auditor General's CESD Report2/5/2013
STATEMENT FROM THE CANADA-NOVA SCOTIA OFFSHORE PETROLEUM BOARD
REGARDING THE FEDERAL AUDITOR GENERAL’S COMMISSIONER OF THE
ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT’S (CESD) REPORT – CHAPTER 1:
ATLANTIC OFFSHORE OIL and GAS ACTIVITIES
FEBRUARY 5, 2013
The audit report tabled today by the federal Auditor General’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) is the result of a rigorous, in-depth performance review of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board’s (The Board) management of environmental risks and impacts associated with offshore oil and gas activities. The Board is pleased with the results of the audit.
The report concludes that the Board is appropriately managing the environmental aspects of its mandate in regulating Offshore Nova Scotia’s current natural gas projects. Specifically, the report highlights a number of positive findings including:
- the Board exercises due diligence when assessing and approving offshore projects and activities;
- the Board takes adequate steps to ensure that operators comply with environmental requirements; and
- overall, the Board manages the current environmental impacts associated with natural gas activities in the Nova Scotia offshore area in a manner consistent with the size and scale of current operations.
As with any audit, certain improvement opportunities have been identified which have been accepted and endorsed, in keeping with the Board’s commitment to continuous improvement. They will serve to further strengthen our already robust regulatory regime; many of these are already underway or have been completed.
The CESD’s news release indicates that its primary concern is with respect to preparedness of the Board and other federal agencies in responding to a major oil spill, and specifically, in the unlikely scenario where the Board may have to take over the management of the response to a spill. At present, production offshore Nova Scotia is natural gas, with exploratory drilling that may encounter oil not expected until 2015.
Protection of the environment through managing risk, the application of preventative measures, and the response to any spills that may occur is the responsibility of operators. The Board’s focus is, and will continue to be, on ensuring that operators and drilling contractors have the necessary competencies to carry out their work, that they exercise due diligence in preventing incidents from occurring, and that they clearly demonstrate that they have the capability and capacity to respond to any incidents that may occur including spills. This being the case, the Board should not find itself in a situation where it would have to take over the management of a response to a spill from an operator. Notwithstanding this, the CESD audit effectively validated a number of actions that were already underway at the Board. This includes working in a coordinated manner with other federal responders as the Board readies itself for overseeing future drilling activities that may encounter oil, including preparedness for the unlikely scenario of taking over the management of an oil spill response. These actions will be completed ahead of the commencement of such drilling activities.
The Board fully acknowledges the recent changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and has updated its environmental assessment policies and procedures in line with the new legislation. In doing so, the Board has ensured that environmental assessments that may now be conducted under Board practices, rather than under the CEAA, will be to the same rigour as before.
In carrying out its regulatory mandate, the Board has structured its organization to ensure that decision making respecting safety and environmental protection is paramount. The checks and balances in place, carried out by highly qualified Board staff, form a well-respected regulatory regime that is focused on the prevention of incidents, and one that holds operators fully accountable and responsible for their activities.
Attached are the recommendations from the CESD report and an outline of the Board’s actions to address them.