News Release Article from  Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Government Not Ready to Respond to a Major Oil Spill

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(Chapter 1—Oil Spills from Ships—Fall 2010 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

Ottawa, 7 December 2010—The government should be ready to respond to a major ship-source oil spill in Canada’s ocean waters, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his Report tabled today in the House of Commons.

“Every day, on average, at least one oil spill is reported to the Canadian Coast Guard,” said Mr. Vaughan. “Fortunately, most are small. However, given the findings of this audit, I am troubled that the government is not ready to respond to a major spill.”

The audit found that the Coast Guard has not done a national risk assessment of oil spills from ships since 2000, and that its national emergency response plan is out of date. The audit also found that the Coast Guard does not have a reliable system to track spills. As a result, it cannot accurately determine the number of spills that occur each year, the size of those spills, their environmental impacts as well as how many required onsite responses.

The audit found that Transport Canada assesses private sector response organizations to ensure that they are ready to respond to spills. A similar process does not exist to verify that the Coast Guard is ready to respond in the event of a large spill. The Coast Guard has not fully assessed its response capacity since 2000.

“We note several areas of concern, from incomplete risk assessments to out-of-date emergency response plans,” said Mr. Vaughan. “These must be addressed to ensure the federal government is ready to respond to any ship-source oil spill occurring in Canadian waters.”

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The chapter “Oil Spills from Ships” is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada Web site.

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