TORONTO, Ont — At a press conference in Victoria this afternoon following a meeting of the countrys energy ministers, the federal minister of Natural Resources Canada, Gary Lunn, said his government will not allow motor carriers to use off-road diesel fuel to address the current diesel fuel shortage a request made by the Ontario Trucking Association at the beginning of the week.
Lunn said the government is doing the best it can in a tough situation by speaking to oil companies and railways about redistributing fuel from other parts of Canada to Ontario.
OTA president, David Bradley, said weve known from the outset that the regulatory solution presented challenges for the federal government but we had hoped that they would have been able to find a way to work with oil industry, which created this problem in the first place, to make it happen.
The problem, according to Bradley, appears to be that the federal government is to use his words in a regulatory straight-jacket. The government says it does not have the authority to suspend the current regulation governing truck diesel fuel standards, even on a temporary basis. That would require a regulatory change which under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would take a minimum of 60 days to pass. Another way would be for the government to introduce legislation as it did recently to end the CN Rail strike. However, given that MPs started their March break today, that is not likely to happen. Or, the federal government could take a soft approach to enforcing the regulation for a short period of time until the fuel supply situation stabilizes, and assure the oil companies they would not be prosecuted for selling the off-road fuel to the truckers.
Obviously we are disappointed that the federal government could not, or would not, find a way around this regulatory roadblock despite the support of the provincial government for such a measure. Now we can only hope that the oil industrys assurances are accurate and that things will stabilize soon. We have no other choice. For now it will be up to every trucker to find their own solution to the fuel shortage.
Earlier in the week Ontarios Minister of Energy, Dwight Duncan, had called for urgent action to relieve the current shortage of truck diesel fuel by allowing truckers to use a brand of diesel fuel which the industry used for more than a decade until this past October and is still used in off-road applications.
In a letter to federal environment minister, John Baird, Duncan stated that Ontarios economy is heavily dependent on trucking, and the trucking industry is solely dependent on diesel fuel. He went on to say that temporarily allowing the trucking industry to use this fuel would significantly reduce the negative impact on the Ontario economy arising from the current situation.
Bradley spoke of trucking companies being cut off from deliveries to their underground storage tanks, with retail pumps being closed throughout the province and fuel being rationed to a quarter of a tank.
There are millions of litres of fuel that is perfectly suitable to use by trucks sitting in reserve, that we need temporary access to, but its not happening, says Bradley. Its frustrating when you consider the risk to the economy. It is quite incredible that an industry the size of the oil producers could allow this situation to occur. It is equally bizarre that in post-9/11 world, after the supposed emergency planning of the past six years, that the economy should be exposed to such a risk.