Environmental Protection

Ensuring that offshore activity can be done in an environmentally responsible manner without significant adverse environmental impacts is paramount in every decision we make. We have a strong team of technical professionals with the necessary expertise focused on the environmental protection of the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area.

Experience in the Field

Dena has over 20 years of experience in the oil and gas, health, safety, and environment fields. She leads our Operations, Health, Safety & Environment Team, which includes two Environmental Advisors who have extensive training and hands-on experience in marine biology, environmental impacts and assessments, spill response and fisheries issues.

Dena Murphy
Director, Operations, Health, Safety & Environment

When it comes to protecting the marine environment, we make every effort to ensure that every operator working in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area has taken all the necessary steps to demonstrate how they will carefully and responsibly perform offshore activities to avoid or minimize impacts to the environment.

Maintaining active participation on forums and committees dedicated to ensuring the most up-to-date science is understood and applied to our work is a top priority for us, with particular focus on spill prevention, the effects of marine sound on the marine environment, and species at risk protections. Maintaining and developing relationships with other government departments involved in marine protection, across Canada and worldwide, plays a key role in identifying continuous improvement opportunities.

Operators must submit certain documents before they can receive our authorization to work in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area. Some of the environmental requirements include:

  • Where required by legislation or as we otherwise deem necessary, completing an acceptable and robust Environmental Assessment that properly identifies environmental risks and includes commitments to mitigation that address any associated effects and interactions, well in advance of project commencement
  • Development of an Environmental Protection Plan for drilling and production programs to set out the procedures, practices, resources and monitoring necessary to manage the hazards identified in the project-specific Environmental Assessment. Environmental Protection Plans must include provisions for management of all waste generated during the operation
  • Preparation of an Oil Spill Response Plan, supported by spill trajectory modelling and a net environmental benefits analysis (as appropriate), that sets out notification processes, roles and responsibilities, resources of concern (e.g., marine mammals, special areas, fisheries) and procedures for spill containment and clean-up
  • Committing to ongoing environmental reporting for our review. These reports are submitted and analyzed by us throughout the lifecycle of the project on a regular basis
  • Committing and adhering to our detailed environmental guidelines, including our Offshore Chemical Selection Guidelines, Offshore Waste Treatment Guidelines, Geophysical, Geological, Geotechnical and Environmental Program Guidelines, and our Offshore Physical Environmental Guidelines

Operators must demonstrate the ability to carefully and responsibly perform offshore activities with minimal effects on the marine environment and this must be demonstrated to our satisfaction. All documents related to environmental protection that are included in activity authorization applications must be accepted prior to our issuance of an Activity Authorization.

Once we issue an authorization, our role moves to monitoring and compliance. Our Monitoring and Compliance program holds the operator accountable to the approved plans and procedures, commitments, regulatory requirements and conditions of approval/authorization that are in place to protect the environment during the lifecycle of their activity. We have designated officers with the necessary authorities to address situations of regulatory noncompliance. Enforcement actions may include: facilitated compliance, issuance of orders (including the shutdown of operations), directives or notices, Administrative Monetary Penalties, suspension or revocations of approvals and authorizations and prosecution in the court system.  

 Some of the tools we use for monitoring and compliance include:

  • Regular environmental compliance audits and inspections at offshore worksites and local offices
  • Review of operators reports that detail the status of their work programs, along with other documentation that demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Mandatory incident reporting, including spills to the sea and unauthorized discharges
  • Tracking and trends analysis of spills and other offshore environmental incidents
  • Understanding offshore incidents that happen in other jurisdictions, gathering and implementing lessons learned from these incidents
  • Ongoing environmental effects monitoring by operators to report on the effects of oil and gas activities on specific components of the surrounding marine environment (reports are submitted to us throughout the year)

Environmental Effects Monitoring programs are required for all development projects, and certain exploration activities. Together with the Impact Assessment Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada, we developed an Environmental Effects Monitoring Coordination Framework to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the governments, industry and us in successfully designing, implementing and reviewing Environmental Effects Monitoring programs.

Learn more about our environmental focuses.

As part of the authorization process, an environmental assessment is required. This helps to identify potential impacts that need to be considered before an authorization is granted and mitigation measures to avoid or minimize these impacts and their consequences. Learn more.

When considering an authorization for approval, we ensure that any proposed offshore oil and gas activity will be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner, with specific consideration for proposed activity within special areas. Learn more.


Environmental ResourcesView material and resources related to environmental protection that we use. Learn more here.

Environmental Publications

Statement of Canadian Practice with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment

Species at Risk in Nova Scotia – Identification and Information Guide

A Field Guide to Oil Spill Response on Marine Shorelines

Practitioner’s Guide to Federal Impact Assessment under the Impact Assessment Act

International Associations

International Regulators' Forum (IRF)

International Offshore Petroleum Environmental Regulators (IOPER)

Oil Spill Response Limited 

International Regulator

Agency for Safety, Energy and Environment (ASEA) – Mexico

Brazilian National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) – Brazil

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) – United States

Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) - United States

Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) – Ireland

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) – Ireland

Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA) – Denmark

Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) – United Kingdom

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – United Kingdom

Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) – United Kingdom

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)- United Kingdom

National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) – Australia

State Supervision of Mines (SSM) – Netherlands

Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA)/Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA) – Norway

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Department of Conservation (Doc) 

MNZ (Maritime Transport Act ) - New Zealand 

Industry Associations

Eastern Canada Response Corporation Ltd. (ECRC)

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)

International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC)

International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP

International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC)

Other Useful Links*

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAA)

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC)

Marine Protected Areas and their regulations

IOGP Report 594 - Source Control Emergency Response Planning  Guide for Subsea Wells

Environmental Studies Research Fund

Program of Energy Research and Development

Government of Canada Species at Risk Public Registry

North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis): Recovery Strategy and Action Plan


Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development AuditIn February 2013, the federal Auditor General’s Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development tabled an audit report on the performance of our environmental regulatory system. Learn more about this report, and our response and action plan.

Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development Audit Recommendation Accomplishments

In February of 2013, the federal Auditor General’s Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development tabled an audit report on the performance of our environmental regulatory system. This report came after a rigorous, in-depth review of our management of environmental risks and impacts associated with offshore oil and gas activities. We were pleased with the results of this audit, and quickly developed a plan to act on areas for improvement.

After the report was tabled, we released a document outlining our response and action plan. This document, along with our statement, can be found here. We are pleased to report that all items on the action plan have been completed. To view the action plan, click here.

One of the main findings of the audit was that we should have in place up-to-date and effective agreements with other federal organizations that may be involved in, or support, our regulatory mandate respecting spill preparedness, prevention and response. Memoranda of Understandings have since been created or updated with Transport Canada Marine Safety and Security, the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Impact Assessment Agency and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Our focus is, and continues to be, on ensuring that operators (including their service providers, such as drilling contractors) have the necessary competencies to carry out their work, to exercise due diligence in preventing incidents from occurring, and to clearly demonstrate that they have the capability and capacity to respond to any incidents that may occur, including spills.

To view our Memoranda of Understanding, please visit our Legislation and Regulatory Instruments page.