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Sooke seeks tanker ban in rough seas

Concerns raised over spill response
A partially loaded crude oil tanker is guided out of Burrard Inlet from Burnaby’s Westridge Terminal next to the Chevron oil refinery. (File - Black Press Media)

Sooke council has thrown its weight behind a proposal from the District of Metchosin to impose a ban on tanker ships during adverse weather conditions when spill response teams are unable to operate due to rough seas.

Council will be sending a formal letter to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman seeking Transport Canada’s support for the ban. They will also request provincial assistance for spill response equipment, protective gear, shoreline response strategies, and community evacuation plans.

Though both acknowledged the problem with tankers travelling up and down the B.C. coast, councillors Al Beddows and Dana Lajeunesse voted against the motion, arguing it was unlikely too have the desired effect.

Beddows pointed out that Sooke has vigorously fought over the years to limit tanker traffic. In 2014, a non-binding referendum was held where about 70 per cent of voters opposed the expansion of oil tanker traffic through coastal B.C. waters.

“I don’t like the idea of those tankers coming up and down the coast, but the (Trans Mountain) pipeline is almost done. It’s not going to change things. We are going to get those 400 tankers a year,” he said.

“If we write a letter I’d like to think it would have some influence, but I have a feeling it will have absolutely no influence.”

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Lajeunesse said he was not certain about the prohibition on tanker travel during unfavourable sea conditions, noting it raises concerns that forcing them to anchor might pose more significant risks than allowing them to proceed.

Councillor Tony St-Pierre backed the motion, however, noting the action won’t stop tanker traffic, only stop them from travelling when not possible to mitigate disasters.

St-Pierre added the response to Heyman could prevent downloading on communities and make sure they have the necessary equipment in case of a spill.

Sooke is among five local governments asked to support the ban. Sc’ianew First Nation, the Capital Regional District, Esquimalt and Colwood have also been asked to respond.

The Trans Mountain Expansion project runs from Edmonton to Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal and the Chevron refinery in Burnaby.

The project involves twinning an existing oil pipeline built in 1953 and is expected to result in a significant increase in oil tanker traffic in Vancouver and Victoria waters, servicing destinations like California, China, and other foreign buyers.

To enhance spill response capabilities, KOTUG Canada and Trans Mountain will manage a fleet of tugboats stationed at the new oil response base at Beecher Bay, near East Sooke.

The base is part of a broader $150-million expansion by the Western Canada Marine Response Centre, which extends to Sidney, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Ucluelet, in preparation for the increased spill response demands associated with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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