— New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen.
•••God forbid, but let’s say the worst-case scenario unfolds on the Orphan Basin about 430 kilometres off Newfoundland and there’s a massive oil spill on the scale of the Gulf Coast disaster.
Set aside the monumental environmental catastrophe for now.
The cleanup could cost a king’s ransom.
In our case, a Danny ransom.
The potential liability must have Chevron, the company doing the drilling, shaking in its oilskins.
The offshore project operator would be 100-per cent liable for any costs and damages if it was determined that the operator were at fault.
But what if there’s a leak and the operator weren’t at fault?
According to a story in today’s Montreal Gazette, under the current rules companies have limited liability.
In fact, the cleanup of a major offshore leak could land at the feet of Canadian taxpayers.
Oil companies in Canada are only liable for up to $40 million in cleanup costs, the Gazette reports.
Off the East Coast — where Canada’s only existing offshore oil rigs are operating — the limit is $30 million.
The Gazette quotes Sean Kelly, spokesman for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, as saying project operators must provide a security deposit of $30 million for any cleanup costs.
The board can request a further $40-million deposit "if there's a need," and companies must prove they have access to $250 million to fund any cleanup, Kelly told the paper.
On Wednesday (May 12th), U.S. President Barack Obama supported legislation introduced by a Democratic Senator that would raise the U.S. liability cap to $10 billion from $75 million.
British Petroleum estimates the Gulf Coast leak, which is dumping 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, has cost the company $350 million to date.
The company has promised to pay all "necessary and appropriate" cleanup costs.
Which is good of them.
•••Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, Chrevon Corp. is moving ahead with plans to drill the deepest oil well in Canadian history in the Orphan Basin, almost a kilometre deeper than the Gulf well.
Earlier this week, provincial New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael demanded that Chevron stop its drilling project.
At least until the cause of the deepwater blowout/environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is better understood.
Which makes perfect sense.
The Williams government doesn’t agree, despite the fact it’s begun a review of the offshore oil spill safety practices.
Bloomberg News Service reports today that New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, energy and natural resources critic, is calling for a “pause” on drilling by companies such as Chrevon.
Tell me the following quotes don’t make sense:
“It’s reverse-onus time. I don’t have to prove this thing is risky, they have to prove it’s safe,” said Cullen.
“The ability to drill is a privilege, not a right.”
“The larger question here is that we are moving from known, relatively safe conventional oil to a territory where things are unknown, riskier, much more expensive.”