Since November 2003, industry, governments and regulators have been fully engaged in a project to identify opportunities for improvement in the regulatory systems governing oil and gas activities offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. The first wave of change, now completed, used recent experience to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of regulatory processes. The second step, now underway, involves renewal of the regulations with an objective of introducing more performance based or "goal oriented" criteria, where applicable, enabling efficient adaptation of new technologies and industry best practices.
There is no "one size" fits all when it comes to regulating offshore oil and gas activities. Some regimes consolidate the gateway to these interests through a single agency, while others require industry to address some of them directly with the responsible departments. Regardless of whether the interests are consolidated or addressed directly, the tensions among them remain. In Canada, we are using our own experience and lessons learned from others to bring multiple government and industry players to the table and align interests collaboratively.
The marine environment represents a significant challenge for governments because of the multiplicity of ocean interests. In general terms, the interests and issues that must be considered by offshore regulators and policy-makers include the following:
Health and safety of workers - the primary challenge is to create regimes that ensure safety is not compromised. Within this challenge is the need to mesh land-based Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) experience with offshore OHS experience.
Co-existence with other marine uses - the issue is primarily fishing and the degree of complexity depends upon the robustness of the fishing industry, gear types and proximity to exploration and development.
Environmental interests - including the need to comply with national and International standards and agreements; waste disposal (drilling fluids, cuttings, produced water) in the marine environment; cumulative effects; oceans management regimes including Marine Protected Areas; seismic sound regulation and protecting marine species.
Co-existence with other marine laws - brings into focus the regulation of other shipping interests and regulation for specialized offshore vessels such as mobile drilling units. The issue of marine security is also a significant one for the offshore in the post 9-11 environment.
Economic Interests - cover the remaining significant area for regulatory challenge in the offshore. The interests include: local business development, capabilities and expectations as well as taxation, duties, and trade rules.
The fact that Canada is a federation is at times a strength and at others a challenge. Responsibility and jurisdiction for many matters is often not divided but instead is shared. As a result, although accountability is often shared as well, it also means the outcome is often a blend of national and provincial interests, which makes for more stable and enduring outcomes. In the case of Atlantic Canada's offshore oil and gas activities, political Accords were signed in the mid-eighties to merge provincial and federal offshore responsibilities.