Oil tanker Everest Spirit moving in Burrard Inlet

Report flags many oil spill response gaps


Tankers ply Vancouver harbour with looser requirements than in U.S., provincial government finds

The province’s own assessment that B.C. is underprepared to prevent and clean up oil spills has handed fresh ammunition to opponents of new pipelines and the tankers now moving through Burrard Inlet.

The 52-page technical report, released Monday (July 23) as the government laid out its demands for improved safety and a bigger share of benefits, raises multiple concerns about the risks and procedures already used to export Alberta oil via Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain pipeline through the Lower Mainland.

Among the findings:

– U.S. authorities require oil-laden tankers sailing east of Port Angeles to have escort tugs with them, while that’s voluntary for tankers in much of B.C. waters outside Vancouver harbour.

– B.C. fails to match requirements by Washington State requiring an emergency tug be on standby on the sea route.

– Washington bans Suezmax tankers, which carry 800,000 to one million barrels, from its inner waters but Port Metro Vancouver has said that tanker size could be allowed in Vancouver harbour if the Second Narrows is dredged.

– Alaska has far tougher spill response rules, requiring industry-funded emergency responders be able to handle a 300,000 barrel spill, compared to just 70,000 barrels in B.C., before international aid is invoked. B.C. crews would be “completely overwhelmed” by a 260,000-barrel Exxon Valdez-sized spill.

The report warns the current spill response capacity “appears to be insufficient” to handle the existing tanker shipments of oil from the Trans Mountain pipeline even if neither its expansion nor the new Enbridge pipeline proceed.

“Increasing this threshold is critical,” the report said of the 70,000-barrel response capability.

It also noted cleanup costs exceeding $1.3 billion may not be covered by insurance or industry funds and fall on taxpayers and others.

“Canada has no plan in place to cover the excess costs of a major spill,” it says.

No provision is made to deal with oiled wildlife, it says, and there’s no mechanism to make use of volunteers.

It also says the capacity to clean oiled shoreline should be boosted from the current 500 metres of shore per day.

“Exxon Valdez impacted 2,000 kilometres of shoreline. At 500 metres per day, a similar spill occurring in B.C. would require a 10-year cleanup.”

Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, said the improvements flagged in the report must be made regardless of whether new pipelines are approved.

She noted some tankers leaving Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby terminal are laden with conventional oil but others increasingly carry heavy oil sands bitumen, which she said increases the risk of a pipeline rupture on land and vastly increases the damage if a tanker spills at sea.

“We don’t know from tanker to tanker going through a heavily populated area what the risk is,” Wristen said. “There is no spill response for a bitumen spill. It’s going to the bottom.”

The provincial report also raises bitumen as an issue, noting it is more likely to sink and presents higher environmental risks and a more difficult cleanup if spilled.

“It is possible that the capacity that exists for crude oil spills – from training to equipment – may not be appropriate for bitumen,” the report said. “Thus, a major gap may likely exist for all current and future bitumen shipments taking place on Canada’s west coast.”

The provincial report notes oil shipping safety has improved and spills have become rarer worldwide.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, a member of Metro Vancouver’s port cities committee, said the deficiencies flagged in the provincial report deserve “serious examination” and added the challenge now is getting Ottawa to implement them.

“It is clear even from this technical report that Canada falls short,” said UBC political science professor Michael Byers. “Not only is the current capacity insufficient in the future, it already is insufficient and needs to be addressed.”

Just Posted

After 30 years, Agassiz’s Miss Marge set to retire from Variety Play

From 1989 to today, Miss Marge has taken generations of kids through the district play program

RCMP believe Missing Hope teenager was headed to Chilliwack

Keely Reeze Loewen, 18, last in contact with a family member on June 13

Summer service by bus from Chilliwack to Cultus Lake starting soon

Seasonal change will see bus service from Vedder Road to Cultus elementary until Labour Day

Chilliwack trustees divided on Trans Mountain pipeline route near two schools

School district will pen letter to NEB to ask for re-routing away from schools to be considered

Agassiz RCMP finally able to get outdoor picnic table

Funds from Harrison and Kent will allow the detachment to purchase the outdoor seating area

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Channel your inner pirate in epic Canada-wide treasure hunt

200 treasure chests hidden among trails and waterways, lots of prizes to be claimed

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Most Read