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

Wind warning in effect for Greater Victoria

Strong winds could reach up to 80 km/hr along coastal areas

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria wins crucial WHL contest over Giants in Langley

Royals take over second in B.C. Division ahead of Vancouver

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

WHL winning streak ends at four in Kelowna for Victoria

Royals lose 8-4 as Rockets explode offensively

Wind warning back in effect around Vancouver Island

80 km/h winds expected Saturday, Jan. 20, on east coast of Island, 100 km/h on west coast

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

UPDATE: BC Transit’s handyDart service strike in Victoria delayed

LRB application by contractor means new strike notice must be issued by union

Most Read