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.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

VIDEO: Canadian Forces members begin helping out flooded B.C. communities

Three-hundred personnel in B.C. in some off hardest hit cities

Residents sandbag Ruckle in advance of predicted Saturday flood

Residents were allowed back in for 12 hours on Thursday.

Riverside warnings issues for Grand Forks properties

The RDKB has not issued orders to leave, but owners should be aware.

‘Catastrophic’ flooding will echo for years

Last week’s flooding broke records – and there is more on the way

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Vacationers urged to check for stowaway bats that could carry deadly disease

‘White-nose syndrome’ has killed millions of bats in North America, but hasn’t arrived in B.C. yet

Are B.C.’s gas prices enough to keep you from travelling May long weekend?

Gas prices in B.C. ranging from 125 cents per litre to more than 150 cents

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wed in Windsor as millions watch

Windsor sparkled on a warm spring day as tens of thousands of people jammed its quaint roads

3 survivors after airliner with 110 aboard crashes in Cuba

It was Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in three decades and its third major air accident since 2010

Most Read