Nunavut fuel tanks lag years behind environmental standards

“Buried deep within this document in very small print is a section that caused me some concern”

By STEVE DUCHARME

Joe Savikataaq, minister of community and government services, says a series of challenges have delayed government efforts to upgrade Nunavut's fuel tanks to new Environment Canada standards. But he said his department is making progress and by this fall, fuel tanks in five communities will be completed. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)


Joe Savikataaq, minister of community and government services, says a series of challenges have delayed government efforts to upgrade Nunavut’s fuel tanks to new Environment Canada standards. But he said his department is making progress and by this fall, fuel tanks in five communities will be completed. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)

Nunavut’s aging fuel storage facilities — crucial to virtually all transportation, fuel and heat in the territory — are years behind modern safety codes set down by Environment Canada.

And a slow response to upgrades is placing the Nunavut government at the mercy of Environment Canada’s regulators.

That’s according to statements made March 2 by Community and Government Services Minister Joe Savikataaq, in Nunavut’s legislative assembly.

“A lot of these compliance issues have to do with new regulations that were put on and we have to comply with them,” Savikataaq said.

“We are lucky they have agreed that when we do any tank farm upgrades, we can deal with the non-compliance issues.”

Savikataaq was responding to questions from Hudson Bay MLA Alan Rumbolt, who asked about the most recent set of public accounts tabled at Nunavut’s legislature during the fall sitting last year.

“Buried deep within this document in very small print is a section that caused me some concern,” Rumbolt told the minister March 2, during question period.

CGS’s Petroleum Products Division, as well as the Qulliq Energy Corp., received Environment Protection Compliance Orders from Environment Canada for contraventions of regulations for fuel storage facilities in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Sanikiluaq, Rumbolt said.

Failure to comply with an EPCO runs the risk of having the facility shut down by the federal government.

That outcome would have been devastating to the four communities in question, since they rely entirely on diesel fuel to generate electricity.

Thankfully for the GN, the EPCOs were non-binding. Otherwise, the GN would have had only 180 days to fix the problem.

Those EPCOs were issued quietly in 2012 — the deadline that fuel storage operators had to meet under the new regulations.

But MLAs don’t appear to have been made aware of those warnings.

Plans by Community and Government Services to comply with the regulations only began in 2014, and they’ve faced delays.

Savikataaq addressed the issue again March 15 in the legislature.

“The GN hired contractors to address the EPCOs starting in 2014. Detailed designs, shipping schedules and icing conditions delayed the arrival of construction materials [in the four communities],” Savikataaq said March 15, in further response to Rumbolt’s questions from March 2.

The setbacks have delayed the completion date to fall 2016, from the original deadline of April 1, the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Savikataaq said he expects the four facilities, as well as a new tank farm in Cambridge Bay, to be compliant with safety codes by that time.

The Cambridge Bay facility is already 90 per cent completed, Savikataaq said, and will be the first facility in Nunavut compliant with the modern codes.

“The Petroleum Products Division is anticipating five facilities in Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove, Sanikiluaq, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay will be Environment Canada code compliant by the fall of 2016,” he said.

The GN will then set its sights on 13 more non-complaint facilities across Nunavut.

Savikataaq said Nunavut’s Financial Management Board has approved $17.5 million dollars in the five-year capital plan, starting in 2016-2017, to upgrade the 13 facilities.

“These 13 Nunavut communities do not require capacity upgrade in the next five to 10 years and that is the reason for being put on priority,” he said.

The remaining facilities in Nunavut will require capacity upgrades in the next decade and the safety code upgrades can be addressed at that time.

“Environment Canada officials are satisfied with the progress made by the Petroleum Products Division to make the facilities code compliant,” Savikataaq said.

Environment Canada’s new petroleum storage guidelines came into effect in 2008, with a grace period of four years for operators to conduct upgrades.

According to Savikataaq’s time frame, Nunavut won’t reach those guidelines until the middle of the next decade.

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