B.C. civic leaders voted by a razor-thin margin Thursday to oppose oil pipeline projects that would expand tanker traffic in coastal waters.
The resolution passed in a nearly split electronic vote at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention with 51.3 per cent of delegates in favour and 48.7 per cent opposed.
“We rely solely and wholely upon the oceans for its many resources,” said Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district director Des Nobles, one of several delegates who said the risks of B.C. carrying more oil to the Pacific far outweigh the benefits.
Others cited the higher cost and challenge of cleaning up a spill of heavy bitumen crude oil and Canada’s insufficient spill-response capability.
“Communities in the interior of B.C. and on the coast can survive and thrive without this pipeline,” said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt. “I’m not convinced smaller communities and even large ones can thrive in the face of a catastrophic oil spill.”
Opponents of the resolution cited the damaging signal it would send of B.C.’s openness to business before environmental reviews are complete.
Enbridge is in a joint review process on its proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline to Kitimat, while Kinder Morgan is in an earlier stage of its plans to expand its existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline from northern Alberta to Burnaby.
“The oil in Canada is going to come out of the ground and it’s going to find its way to market,” said Prince George Mayor Shari Green, who opposed the resolution.
She said Alberta oil sands crude might flow to tidewater through Alaska or Washington State instead of B.C.
Kinder Morgan already has a branch of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline that also reaches the coast in Washington State at Cherry Point, where some of the flow is refined.
“Tsunami debris is already arriving on our shorelines,” Green said. “So would oil from our neighbours should there be an accident.”
The resolution advanced by Saanich council requires UBCM to “oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters” and urges provincial government leaders to fight it by any legislative and administrative means available.