08/17/2011 07:32 EDT | Updated 10/17/2011 05:12 EDT

N.L. government says changes being discussed that could lead to safety regulator

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it's spoken to Ottawa about what needs to be done to set up an independent, offshore safety regulator.

Establishing the proposed regulator is one of the recommendations stemming from an inquiry into offshore helicopter safety off Newfoundland and Labrador.

The inquiry was launched after Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the North Atlantic on March 12, 2009, killing 17 of 18 people on board.

In his second inquiry report released Monday, Commissioner Robert Wells said the proposed body should have all-encompassing oversight of chopper safety.

The creation of a regulator would have to take place through a change to the Atlantic Accord.

Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner says he's hopeful Ottawa will commit to working with the province to make the change to the federal-provincial agreement.

"They've entered into discussions with us, but they haven't formally agreed or adopted or said that they will go in the direction that Commissioner Wells recommended," he said.

"We see steps that we believe can help us get there and we're presenting them to the federal government."

Skinner said the changes are complicated and will take some time to implement, but he believes it's something that needs to be done.

Wells's first report, released in November, called for the establishment of an offshore safety body or an autonomous division within the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Critics have accused the board of a conflict of interest because it is tasked with developing the province's offshore resources to the maximum extent while also protecting workers and the environment.