Transport Minister expresses concerns over sending oil through Churchill

Port at Churchill, Manitoba. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Port at Churchill, Manitoba. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Winnipeg – Canada’s federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt recently came out bluntly against shipping oil through Canada’s north any time soon.

At a Canadian American Business Council event this week in Washington DC, Minister Raitt did not mince words in describing her concerns about shipping oil in the north: ”I can tell you: one oil spill or accident in the Arctic is one visual you do not want to have in this world at all.”

The Minister’s remarks may have an impact on the proposal from Omnitrax Inc., which involves shipping crude oil by rail to the port of Churchill, Manitoba, then by tanker through the Arctic waters of Hudson Bay. However, Omnitrax has stated it would begin shipping crude oil in the summer of 2014 against the wishes of Manitoba’s provincial government. The company holds that provincial approval is not required for the project, since rail transport is under federal jurisdiction.

The Manitoba government is currently investigating the establishment of new protected areas on the shores of Hudson Bay – as well as added marine protections for beluga whales – that would help put an end to oil shipping plans.

“Minister Raitt’s comments are unequivocal,” said Wilderness Committee campaign director Eric Reder. “Shipping oil north of the 60th parallel is too risky. We cannot send crude through Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait.”

According to media reports, Minister Raitt said the complications with Arctic shipping for now will give policy-makers ample time to prepare all the safety protocols necessary to protect the pristine region from spills. Raitt also said she’s looking forward to the release of a report this fall with recommendations on shipping north of the 60th parallel.

“It’s not just always about the economy,” said Minister Raitt. ”I can’t believe I said that as a Conservative. But it’s not always about the economy. You’ve got to balance it out with what’s happening in terms of safety, and the environment too.”

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