Monday, August 26, 2013

An oil spill in BC

Officials within the British Columbia government have privately warned that the province lacks the ability to manage oil spills from existing and future oil traffic, and even a moderate spill would overwhelm their ability to respond. 

Ottawa’s decision to deal with BC coastal oil spills from a 
base in Quebec would make it much harder to contain spills, and Transport Canada and the Coast Guard lack the needed environmental expertise to manage them, officials said in the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under freedom of information laws. B.C. Environment Ministry bureaucrats voiced a range of misgivings for Environment Minister Mary Polak.  Did they forget our Coast Guard was recently cut back from Ottawa?

Last year, Ottawa fired internationally respected Canadian oil-spill expert Kenneth Lee and eliminated his research centre in Dartmouth, N.S. This will limit resource managers’ access to critical scientific expertise when making response decisions in the future, oil spill expertise is eroding. And we expect oil company lobbying is increasing.

Even a moderately-sized spill would overwhelm the province’s ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government. Weather conditions and the remoteness of the pipeline’s route in B.C. could cause cleanup delays, leading to broader water, land and wildlife contamination. 
Sensitive habitats, local economies, fisheries and tourism, and First Nations along the route could be affected. The briefing book for Environment Minister Mary Polak, estimates that at a rate of 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day, a pipeline spill lasting an hour could lead to 21,000 barrels spilling into B.C.’s wilderness. 

Imagine managing that spill from Quebec and start adding up the hours and damage to BC! In May, 2012, documents show officials in the B.C. Environmental Emergency Program in Victoria privately wrote that this relocation would hinder efforts to contain an oil spill on the West Coast. (One has to consider the relocation to Quebec which has no sea coast a political decision for votes) 
And the warnings were written about existing oil traffic, without factoring in future expanded pipelines and many more tankers. 

Remember the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound in 1989? What's going on up there in remote Alaska now?

In 2001, researchers at the Auke Bay Laboratories dug over 9,000 pits, at 91 sites, over a 95-day field season. Over half the sites were contaminated with Exxon Valdez oil. Oil was found at different levels of intensity from light sheening, to oil droplets, to heavy oil where the pit would literally fill with oil. 

Killer whales are individually identifiable and fortunately in Prince William Sound they were photographed starting in 1984, five years prior to the spill. Two groups of killer whales were photographed in slicks of oil in the weeks following the spill. These two groups lost approximately 40% of their numbers by 1990, and an additional five whales after 1990. Their numbers had diminished by 40%. In some pods, there appears to be no hope for recovery. And some unique populations will likely become extinct as the remaining members continue to age and die. 

With the daily stranding of the oil in the intertidal zone, some is pulled down into the sediments by the capillary action of the fine sediments beneath the coarse cobbles of the seashore. It is estimated that the recovery rate is only 4% and could take decades, perhaps even another century! 
Populations of many species of creatures feeding in the intertidal zone are not recovering. Subsurface oil is still leaking polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which harms wildlife. 

So if you are still with me, you should be aware that Enbridge has publicly stated that they will form another company to run any oil pipeline and transfer point in BC to the Pacific. Why would a company do that? Well, when asked about insurance coverage for a spill, they didn't answer what that would entail in the separate company, leading many to believe that a new company designated by Enbridge would simply walk away from the cleanup costs once they exceeded their insurance coverage and leave the ongoing financial bill to the BC taxpayers! 
Kinder Morgan has not officially tabled their proposal for a twin pipeline pumping oil into their Vancouver harbour terminals.

These two proposals would increase tanker traffic by more than 1000 trips per year. That is 83 ships full of heavy tar sands oil navigating our pristine waters every MONTH! 

And in case you didn't know, Exxon only paid 900 million and is still in court trying to avoid a further 92 million in clean up costs 22 years later! 
The world's largest publicly traded oil company reported profit at $6.9 billion for the second quarter of 2013.

Are you, as a BC taxpayer prepared to suffer the same ongoing results?  

Are you as a citizen of Earth prepared to account for how you allowed such a disaster?

Are you ready to answer your grandchildren's questions?


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