Ottawa vows ‘world class’ oil safety

Southern Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver are already at "very high risk" from existing tanker traffic, mostly from Alaska

A partially loaded crude oil tanker is guided out of Burrard Inlet from Burnaby's Westridge Terminal next to the Chevron oil refinery

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver assured a Vancouver business audience Wednesday that the federal government is committed to “world class” oil spill prevention and response on the B.C. coast.

In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Oliver stopped short of specifically endorsing the 45 recommendations in a new survey of marine and land oil transport safety, but repeated a vow from last summer to make “polluter pays” the law for pipelines in Canada.

“There has never been a serious tanker accident on the West Coast,” Oliver said. “Nevertheless, we are committed to building a world-class system to prevent marine accidents. In the unlikely event there is an accident, we need to respond rapidly and comprehensively and make sure the polluter pays, not the taxpayer.”

On Tuesday, Oliver and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt released a report by a tanker safety expert panel chaired by Gordon Houston, former president of Port Metro Vancouver and Prince Rupert harbourmaster.

The panel’s report calls for adequate funding to the Canadian Coast Guard to make it the lead agency in any oil spill response at sea. Potential polluters and their delegated spill response agencies should be prepared for a “worst case” incident like the Exxon Valdez grounding in Alaska in 1989, the report says.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said it remains to be seen if Ottawa will take the necessary steps to meet the province’s conditions for approving new heavy oil pipelines. A federal review panel is due to issue recommendations by the end of December on whether the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal for a double pipeline from northern Alberta to Kitimat should be allowed to proceed.

The federal report looks only at current traffic, including crude and other petroleum products. It identifies the south end of Vancouver Island and the adjacent coast, including Vancouver harbour, as being at “very high risk due to the large volumes of vessel traffic and bulk oil movements that occur within close proximity of environmentally sensitive areas.”

That is the region where Alaska crude oil tankers enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca to reach Washington state refineries, and the oil tanker exclusion zone ends. Between 30 and 60 tankers a year filled with crude oil or diluted bitumen also sail out from the Kinder Morgan Canada oil terminal at Burnaby through the same waters.

Traffic from Burnaby would increase to about one tanker per day if Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta proceeds. Currently 30 to 60 tankers a year load at the Westridge Terminal in Burnaby.

The tanker exclusion zone, a voluntary agreement between Canada and the U.S., extends 200 nautical miles west from the northern tip of Haida Gwaii to southern Vancouver Island. The federal report rates oil spill risk as “medium” on the northern and southern ends of the exclusion zone, and low in the central portion.

 

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

Just Posted

UPDATED: Injunction targets blockade on Pat Bay Highway

About 80 people from four major Peninsula First Nations blocking major highway

Central Saanich Police prepared for afternoon shut-down of Highway 17

Sgt. Paul Brailey questions efficacy of protest

Saanich students get on board Walking School Bus

Rogers Elementary students led by teachers and Saanich Police in new initiative

City of Langford rebrands, announces several projects

‘Langford, where it all happens’ is the City’s new slogan

Saanich dog walkers react to potential review of bylaws allowing off-leash dogs on beaches

Focus should have remained on migratory birds, not on dog behaviour, says Cadboro Bay dog walker

VIDEO: ‘Reconciliation is dead,’ say Wet’suwet’en supporters from steps of legislature

Supporters say they will continue ongoing action to hold government accountable

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign funds to pipeline protesters

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee back Coastal GasLink blockades

Donations pour in for family who lost father, son in fatal crash on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Vancouver Island RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

On Feb. 21, a member of the Comox Valley RCMP was assaulted… Continue reading

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also led police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

Most Read