Thursday, June 24, 2010

No oil on BC's coast? It's already happening

The Tyee: Flow of tar sands crude to Burrard Inlet rising, and will more than double: Kinder Morgan... If that happens, the further rise in tanker traffic will compound the risk of an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf Islands, potentially impacting the Fraser Estuary and San Juan Islands... traffic that may reach 150 vessels a year... 'People say they don't want oil tankers moving product off the west coast and I tell them it's happening now, guys, the horse is out of the barn.'

The Province: So why has there been so little public discussion about this development? Each of these tankers carries enough crude to exceed the infamous Exxon Valdez spill by several times... One has to question the wisdom of allowing a major crude-oil terminal to evolve inside a busy harbour and especially beyond the Second Narrows, an extremely narrow and shallow tidal passage.

The Tyee: These forces include: China's hunger for oil and investment in the Alberta oil sands. Washington's emerging resolve to regulate against high carbon emitting fuels like the oil sands. And Ottawa's resulting desire to find alternative Asian markets for oil sands oil. Add in stolid First Nations resistance to a proposed pipeline from the tar sands to Kitimat... Vancouver, the hometown of Greenpeace and the 'greenest city in the world' -- has quietly become a major outflow for controversial Alberta syncrude. The global forces driving these changes are converging on a narrow stretch of treacherous water.

The Tanker Threat to Georgia Strait and Vancouver
The Tyee: We're not talking of refined product here; we're not even talking about crude oil; we're talking the sludge, the sandy, oily mess that's coming out of the tar sands. The consequences of a catastrophe would be enormous. The Vancouver harbour would be closed indefinitely... Even if the ships all get out of Vancouver, the consequences of a disaster from there until they hit the high seas... are incalculable. The spillage would be aggravated by the large tides, which move four times a day, and by the wind with the effect of the Fraser River added to it.

The Georgia Straight: Rex Wyler, who is with a citizen's group called No Tanks: 'If you still have tankers coming in and out of Burrard Inlet, an oil spill anywhere along the coast is a problem.'... Two years ago, certified management accountant Bill Gannon noticed tankers traveling through Burrard Inlet. Gannon prepared a 'risk assessment' (.pdf)... 'Since then, local tanker traffic has increased to about two tankers per week.'

The Georgia Straight: 'Before I went, all I really had was a gut feel about this kind of stuff... What I've learned since I've been here is this: we don't currently possess the technology to clean up our own messes. And until we do, I don't want this around me.'

No Tanks website here.
Image source here: Second Narrows Bridge in Burrard Inlet received highest hazard rating by Coast Guard.