Blowout plans suggested in report

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Shawn Skinner

The author of a report on the province’s oil spill prevention and response capabilities says

offshore operators should be required to have blowout plans in place.

Capt. Mark Turner made 25 recommendations in his report, commissioned in May 2010 after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year and released by the provincial government Thursday afternoon. Turner delivered a review of the report in December.

Turner’s report notes that while “catastrophic blowouts are infrequent occurrences, recent events have demonstrated that such events can prove to be costly with very high social and legal consequences.”

The report says the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador

Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) should require all offshore operators to have blowout plans that include strategies for response and recovery, as well as “an acceptable level of preparedness.”

In an interview, Turner declined to say any recommendations were more significant than others — they are “equally important,” he said — but he did single out the need for dispersant use and in-situ burning of surface oil.

Turner’s report also recommends the offshore petroleum board become more transparent and find ways to provide industry information and analysis to a broad audience.

“This may be achieved by the board and industry jointly, by creating an educational and awareness policy for the public and all stakeholders,” reads the report.

However, Turner said the board overall is a very capable and competent organization.

“We should be proud of the CNLOPB. I know there’s a lot of criticism with the board, but I could not see any problems there within the board,” he told The Telegram. “They’ve done a good job, in my view. I didn’t see anything that would create any big concerns there.”

The provincial government is studying the report, Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner said Thursday evening.

“I’ve given the report a once-over at this point, I haven’t got it committed to memory at this point, but I have read it,” he said. “And I think the first thing that jumps out at me is Capt. Turner does say that he thinks we have a strong regulatory regime here in the province in terms of the offshore and being able to protect our workers and our environment, and he indicates he has confidence in that. I would agree with that and I’m glad to hear him say that.”

“We should be proud of the CNLOPB. I know there’s a lot of criticism with the board, but I could not see any problems there within the board. They’ve done a good job, in my view. I didn’t see anything that would create any big concerns there.” Capt. Mark Turner

As far as implementing the recommendations, Skinner said it won’t solely be up to the Department of Natural Resources or even the provincial government to enact them.

“There are other agencies, provincially, federally and otherwise that are impacted by this. So we’ve given them a heads-up and we forwarded them copies of the report, and we need to work with them on implementing some of this,” he said.

Skinner called the report a chance to build an even stronger regulatory regime, and said the provincial government will start work on any recommendations it can implement on its own.

“From my perspective, we’ve accepted the recommendations, so we obviously support that. It would now be a matter of us sitting down with the CNLOPB to determine how does that impact their operations, is it within their mandate to allow that to happen, are there any commercial, sensitive, client-confidential reasons they couldn’t do that. But more importantly, what is it we can do to live with the spirit of the recommendations?”

Turner is leaving it up to the provincial government to act on his recommendations; when contacted Thursday afternoon he wasn’t aware the report had officially been released.

“I know that they’re now currently reviewing them. They are giving them some deep consideration, and hopefully they’ll be acted upon,” said Turner.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: CNLOPB, Canada-Newfoundland and LabradorOffshore Petroleum Board, The Telegram Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Gulf of Mexico

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  • DON
    April 29, 2011 - 08:41

    The powers that be have finally given some thought to the possibility of a major oil well blowout, massive oil spill and the very dire consequences that will result. The current inadequate planning and preparation indicates that the people in charge don't really think anything catastrophic will ever happen. They are wrong, it is only a matter of time before an accident, natural disaster or terrorist act will cause a massive oil spill that will ruin the fishery, the environment, kill thousands of sea birds and cost billions of dollars in losses. The Government of Newfoundland and Government of Canada are asleep at the wheel on this one. Business as usual!