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More inspections, tougher pollution penalties for oil tanker traffic

The federal government is announcing changes to improve oil tanker safety to shore up support for controversial oil exports off the British Columbia coast.

The changes include annual tanker inspections, increased aerial surveillance and stronger measures for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities.

Pollution penalties will be extended and Ottawa will create a tanker safety expert panel to review the current regime and make further recommendations.

Transport Minister Denis Lebel and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver made the announcement in Vancouver, the terminus for the TransMountain pipeline that Kinder Morgan wants to double in capacity in the next couple of years.

The federal government will also designate more ports for traffic control measures, starting with the port in Kitimat, where Enbridge wants to build the tanker port for its Northern Gateway project.

Increased oil tanker traffic has been controversial in B.C., where the Liberal government has said a "world-class" oil spill response plan will have to be in place before the province will support the Northern Gateway.

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