Oil Tankers Still a Potential Threat to B.C. Coastline

You would think that the Bill C-571, introduced by Catherine Bell, NDP Member of Parliament, would protect British Columbia’s coastline from the potential disasters of oil tankers. The operative word here, however, is “introduced”. The June 18th private member’s bill still needs to be put into legislation…
The upcoming federal election pretty much delays, if not terminates, legislation of all new proposed bills. Prime Minister Harper, originally from Calgary, Alberta, dissolved parliament and called the election on September 7th.
Moving forward, Enbridge Inc. purportedly “had put [the] Gateway [Pipeline project] on the backburner to move ahead with its extensive U.S. pipeline expansion plans, but remounted the proposal early this year amid growing interest from refiners in Singapore and Japan”, reported Reuters on July 31st. Enbridge’s CEO “declined to disclose the players pushing the proposal ahead.” The company reported more than a fourfold jump in second-quarter profit.
The pipeline is a 1,150 Km, $4 billion project running from central Alberta straight across British Columbia to the coastal city of Kitimat. Crude petroleum is to be piped from the Alberta oil sands to the port of Kitimat for export to Asia and California — via parts of the B.C. coastline. A map of the pipeline can be found on B.C. Waters eGazette website http://bcwaters.org/.
Our concern with oil spills? The Sierra Club of B.C. succinctly states:

Tankers will travel through grey whale migratory routes, through feeding grounds for humpback and orca whales, and past more than 600 salmon-spawning rivers. A single oil spill could devastate the coastal communities and First Nations that rely on tourism and fishing.
Assuming that 320 tankers a year travel through the unpredictable waters of Hectate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound and the Douglas Channel, industry averages suggest that a “moderate” spill of more than 159,000 litres will occur every two to three years. A “major” spill of more than 1,590,000 litres is likely to occur every six to seven years. When the U.S. tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989, it spilled 41 million litres of oil–one-sixth of the oil it carried — and polluted 2,000 kilometres of coastline. More than half a million seabirds were killed, along with almost 3,000 sea otters, 250 bald eagles, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.
In 2006, the BC ferry Queen of the North struck a rock 135 kilometres south of Prince Rupert and sank. At 125 metres long, the Queen of the North was less than half the size of the 300-metre Exxon Valdez. About 200,000 litres of diesel fuel remain in the tanks of the sunken ferry.

The ‘No Tankers’ rally in Sidney, B.C., this past weekend is a reminder of the potential threat oil tankers bring to B.C.’s coastlines. Should an oil spill occur, NoTankers.ca points to extreme difficulty in the clean up of a deeply indented coastline, a threat to over 20 at-risk and endangered species, and devastation of community livelihoods in tourism and fishing industries.
The Dogwood Initiative urges those who attended to write about the event and the issues surrounding oil tankers. Write to one or all of the following news media:

For those who did not attend the rally, it’s encouraged that you voice your concerns by writing to the abovementioned and signing the NoTankers.ca petition at: http://www.notankers.ca/sign
Julian West, NDP candidate for this October’s 2008 federal election representing the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, was on hand at the rally to deliver a speech. Watch West, formerly a Green Party candidate in the 1996 B.C. election, describe the environmental and social impact of oil tankers on B.C.’s coastal communities:

Watch ‘Spills Will Happen‘, a video with a topographic map illustrating the locations where vast numbers of marine species which would be affected by an oil spill in B.C.’s northern coastal waters. The video was created by Dogwood Initiative, using images modified from the Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences 2678:

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