NS government orders review of fuel supply

by By Michael MacDonald THE CANADIAN PRESS

HALIFAX. Nova Scotia—The Nova Scotia government says it will review the province’s fuel supply management system after a gasoline shortage spread across the province on the weekend and extended into the middle of the week.

Municipal Affairs Minister Zach Churchill said Wednesday he will appoint an independent public safety specialist under the Emergency Management Act to look at how the system failed and identify ways to prevent it from happening again.

In particular, Churchill is calling for a new communication protocol with the petroleum industry.

“We were not informed in an appropriate amount of time as to the nature of the challenge … and the magnitude of what was going on,” he said, adding that the government was told about pending shortages on Friday.

Churchill said he first learned about gas stations running dry on Saturday when the singer who was supposed to perform that day at his wedding called to say he might not make it because he couldn’t find fuel.

“These sorts of situations cause stress and worry and fear amongst residents,” Churchill told a news conference. “We want to make sure that … we can ease those tension to the best of our ability and ensure that people have the best information possible.”

Imperial Oil, which operates a tank farm on Halifax harbour, says gasoline had been shipped to the majority of retailers that ran out and most will be at normal or near-normal levels for the long weekend.

“We regret the inconvenience of the past few days and we appreciate the patience and support we’ve received from our customers, supply partners and the public,” it said in a statement that also welcomed the government’s review.

The company said the shortage happened after a delayed marine shipment was followed by a delay in conducting product quality testing and processing for an alternate supply.

“We take responsibility for the shortfall and we will systematically use our internal processes to learn from the event,” it said.

Churchill expressed his dissatisfaction with Imperial Oil.

“I’m not happy with Imperial Oil,” he said. “I’m not happy with the way that they responded to this and I think that is consistent across the government.”

The province has no role in managing the supply of fuel and the government isn’t contemplating seeking legislative authority, Churchill said.

The independent review will also focus on ensuring police, fire and ambulance services are not affected by fuel shortages.