Tracy Robinson tends oil containment booms at Gale Creek near Bella Bella

BC VIEWS: Coastal protection isn’t a pipeline issue

Kinder Morgan oilsands expansion would put another 420 ships on the water a year, out of 6,200 passing through Port of Vancouver

The Justin Trudeau government has announced its latest measures for “world class” oil spill protection on the B.C. coast.

To many people, this will be seen as a prelude to approving the expansion of the 63-year-old TransMountain oil and fuel pipeline from Alberta to its Burnaby terminal and refineries in Washington. That pipeline approval appears imminent, but that’s not what the increased protection is primarily about.

The recent tug and barge incident off Bella Bella was the latest illustration. Transport Minister Marc Garneau toured the area of the diesel spill cleanup Sunday before joining Trudeau in Vancouver Monday to announce long overdue improvements to Coast Guard resources.

Premier Christy Clark put the case for more “guard” in the Pacific Coast Guard in a speech at the B.C. Liberal Party convention in Vancouver on Sunday.

“We have been cheated by the federal government for a long time while resources go to the east,” Clark said.

That’s a bit dramatic, but essentially she’s right. It’s more a matter of Ottawa’s neglect of far-away B.C. than anything, neglect that can be traced back to the elder Trudeau government.

“World class” land and ocean spill protection was a phrase coined by Clark back in 2012, when she announced her “five conditions” for supporting any expansion of heavy oil pipelines. Back then the main focus was the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, which Trudeau has since threatened with his promised ban on heavy oil tankers from the North Coast.

We now have B.C.’s definition for “world class” spill response. It’s the capability to intervene within three hours to a vessel in distress anywhere on the B.C. coast, in the worst weather conditions.

Provincial officials say that means three heavy salvage tugboats on 24-hour standby, one at Vancouver, one at Prince Rupert and a third stationed at Port Renfrew, where it could head out to the open sea, outside the voluntary exclusion zone for Alaska crude tankers that have been the vast majority of crude traffic along the B.C. coast for nearly 50 years.

Our popular culture is so saturated with anti-oil propaganda today that it’s difficult to have a coherent conversation about the real risk and the response that’s needed.

The standard narrative, hammered home by U.S.-directed environmental groups and their aboriginal partners in the “Great Bear Rainforest,” is that only Canadian oil is a threat.

How much Alaska crude is shipped down the B.C. coast? According to the analysis by Nuka Research for the province, by 2013 it was about 38 million cubic metres each year. That’s enough to fill B.C. Place stadium to the roof – 15 times.

And that Alaska crude, plus the little bit of Alberta crude that has been shipped intermittently from Burnaby since the 1980s, is only a third of our West Coast petroleum traffic. Most of the other two thirds isn’t diesel, which evaporates quickly. It’s bunker oil, the heavier, more persistent stuff that powers large vessels, from container ships to luxury cruise liners.

The Port of Vancouver currently sees about 5,000 vessels a year, almost all carrying bunker fuel. By 2018, assuming the TransMountain expansion goes ahead and other shipping continues to expand, that is expected to go up to 6,200 vessels. Only 420 of those would be ships carrying Canadian crude, with some going to Asia, finally breaking the U.S. stranglehold on Canada’s petroleum resources.

The cacophony of well-organized protests will be deafening. The silence will continue about the Alaska crude tankers, and Saudi crude shipments to Canada from the east.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

Williams Lake city council to approve whale mural

Through e-mail poll of council mural was accepted, it will be ratified at a regular meeting

Culture Days showcases diversity of talent in Quesnel

The Quesnel Downtown Art Walk kicked off Sept. 26

PHOTOS: Barkerville planning for Halloween events and virtual field trips

This year’s Halloween events will focus on traditional trick or treating, and tickets are limited

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Metis pilot Teara Fraser profiled in new DC Comics graphic novel of women heroes

The Canadian pilot’s entry is titled: ‘Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar’

Horgan vows to replace B.C.’s shared senior care rooms in 10 years

$1.4 billion construction on top of staff raises, single-site work

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

Most Read