Royal Society report urges more research into oil spills’ impact on water

A report by the Royal Society of Canada says there are major research gaps when it comes to understanding the environmental impacts of oil spills in water.

CALGARY — A report by the Royal Society of Canada says there are major research gaps when it comes to understanding the environmental impacts of oil spills in water.

The expert panel is calling for a nationally co-ordinated research program involving academia, government and industry that includes studying controlled oil spills in the field.

The report’s release comes as Canada’s oil producers clamour for ways to get their oil to market and industry critics sound alarms over the safety of moving crude via pipelines, train and tanker.

The panel says the heavy oilsands-derived crude that would move through proposed pipelines like Energy East and the Trans Mountain Expansion has components that are less likely to break down in water than lighter types of oil.

But the panel cautions the chemical makeup of the crude is only one variable. Weather conditions and response time are big factors in how environmentally damaging a spill ends up being.

The roughly 400-page report was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. But those industry groups did not have a say in who sat on the panel or the content of the final report.

Industry groups and government bodies often enlist the Royal Society — an association that includes some of Canada’s top scientists and scholars — to conduct research on their behalf.

Kenneth Lee, who chaired the seven-member panel, said CAPP and CEPA only saw the report 24 hours before its release.

He said one of the big takeaways is that it’s not necessarily the case that diluted bitumen from the oilsands — often referred as dilbit — is more damaging if spilled into water than other types of crude, given the myriad other factors at play.

“It’s much more than ‘Gee- dilbit’s really bad and light oil evaporates,”‘ said Lee, director of oceans and atmosphere at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

“There are so many factors that you have to understand and where’s the data for those areas of risk?”

The National Energy Board is weighing two major oil pipeline proposals — the Trans Mountain Expansion to the Vancouver area and the Energy East pipeline to New Brunswick. The process has been criticized by environmental and First Nations groups and the new Liberal government has signalled changes are coming.

Lee said it’s not for him to say what the NEB or the federal Natural Resources department ought to do with the report’s findings.

“There are knowledge gaps, but how much risk they’re willing to accept is up to them. That’s something that the regulator does. We’re scientists that provide the facts to them to make those decisions.”

The panel identified seven “high priority research needs,” which are:

— The impact of oil spills in high-risk and poorly understood areas, such as the Arctic.

— The effects on aquatic wildlife.

— A national baseline research and monitoring program for areas that may be affected by a spill in the future

— Controlled field research to understand how a spectrum of crude types behave in different ecosystems and conditions

— Investigating the efficacy of spill response and being able to learn from spills soon after they occur.

— Improved spill prevention

— Improved risk assessment protocols for oil spills.

Just Posted

Cannabis legalization won’t impact one Red Deer pot dispensary

Nothing changes for Compass Cannabis Clinic in Red Deer despite legalization

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

Neighbours drop opposition to Red Deer County communications tower

Communication tower to be located in Balmoral Heights

Legal cannabis comes with many unknowns: Red Deer County councillors

Councillors question how rural municipalities will be able to enforce cannabis regulations

Kitten season puts pressure on Red Deer shelter

More public education needed to control cat population

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

‘Start low, go slow’: Experts walk bud beginners through cannabis 101

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice… Continue reading

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Most Read