B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee meet in Vancouver, March 16, 2018. (B.C. government)

Green Gov. Jay Inslee opposes Trans Mountain, quietly

Washington uses same pipeline, Alaska tankers for petroleum industry

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s visit to Vancouver raised a few eyebrows when he appeared to support to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s effort to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline system.

Inslee sidestepped a question from a Vancouver reporter about his own state’s use of the pipeline to supply crude to its refineries at Anacortes, Cherry Point and Ferndale, some of which is sold back to B.C. as refined fuels.

Kinder Morgan, current operator of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to its terminal in Burnaby, also operates a branch line running from Abbotsford to Washington that supplies the Shell and Tesoro refinery complex at Anacortes, the Phillips 66 refinery at Ferndale and BP’s Cherry Point facility, the largest in Washington located just 11 km south of Blaine.

Inslee spoke of shipping noise affecting orcas and a growing demand for electric cars in his state, and avoided discussing Washington’s own busy oil industry. He noted his state’s rejection of an oil port at Vancouver, Washington, to transport shale oil produced from North Dakota, and thermal coal export facilities proposed to deliver from Wyoming to Asia. 

“We share the most beautiful part of at least North America,” Inslee said at a joint news conference with Horgan Friday announcing a high-speed rail study. “And that vision that we have of perpetuating that beauty for our grandchildren is at risk by increasing the tanker traffic through the Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca by going up about five to seven times.”

But most of the existing tanker traffic around the south end of Vancouver Island is coming from Alaska, and heading for those Washington refineries and others in California. The Seattle-based Sightline Institute estimates that while 10 per cent of Washington’s crude oil comes from the Alberta oil sands via Trans Mountain, more than half comes from Alaska’s Valdez tanker terminal. Washington refineries also receive crude oil tankers from the Middle East and Africa, and oil by rail from growing U.S. shale production is also increasing.

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Inslee warned of a “dramatic” increase in tanker traffic from the Trans Mountain expansion. In fact it would represent a six per cent increase in total shipping traffic for the region, including freighters loaded with barely refined bunker fuel and U.S. fuel barges like the one that ran aground at Bella Bella in 2016.

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