Minister of Natural Resources Shawn Skinner told reporters Thursday the federal government is supportive of the recommendations from the Wells Inquiry’s final report looking at ways to improve helicopter safety for offshore workers flying to and from the province’s oilfields.
Speaking at a news conference in St. John’s, Skinner said he has been in touch this week with his counterpart in Ottawa, federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver.
“The federal government has indicated that in spirit, they are supportive of those recommendations. We have some challenges in terms of framework with the Atlantic Accord as to how we’d be able to implement some of those changes, but we’re going to do our best to do that.”
Skinner would not elaborate on what those specific challenges are, but said Oliver is prepared to meet with him to discuss the matter.
Helicopter inquiry commissioner Robert Wells is calling for the establishment of an independent offshore safety agency to complement the work of other regulatory bodies, such as Transport Canada.
The inquiry was set up in response to the tragic events of March 12, 2009, in which 17 of 18 people on board a Sikorsky S-92A flown by Cougar Helicopters died after the aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on its way to an offshore rig.
It is expected Oliver will be in St. John’s today for an announcement regarding a loan guarantee or equivalent financing for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric development at Muskrat Falls. Skinner would not confirm or deny if an announcement was set to take place.
The federal minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment.