Tanker traffic increase threatens the Salish Sea off British Columbia’s Coastline

With increased risk, we need increased training and plans for responding to oil spills and other disasters.

With increased risk, we need increased training and plans for responding to oil spills and other disasters.

Originally published in the Times Colonist.

By Chris Genovali And Misty MacDuffee, Times Colonist

On British Columbia’s south coast, Kinder Morgan wants to triple the amount of crude oil being shipped from Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet through Georgia Strait, the Fraser estuary, Gulf Islands, Haro Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait.

The proposed pipeline expansions would deliver 700,000 barrels of tarsands oil per day to Burrard Inlet by 2016.

This month, the National Energy Board approved the most recent request by Kinder Morgan to divert more oil to their Burnaby terminal, which will increase tanker traffic in the Salish Sea.

Despite requests to the NEB by Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Gulf Islands Alliance and other organizations, this was done without a full public process. Kinder Morgan is seeking approval for additional increases in pipeline capacity by 2016, which would further expand tanker traffic.

While concerned British Columbians are focused on the threat of oil tankers to B.C.’s north coast posed by the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, these incremental applications to the NEB are an effective way for Kinder Morgan to significantly increase the amount of crude oil exported out of Burrard Inlet without mentioning the terms “oil tanker” or “tarsands.”

The implications are significant globally, regionally and locally, The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound region will be asked to bear the immediate risks with virtually no public engagement.

The implications of Kinder Morgan’s plans are enormous for the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound ecosystem. This archipelago hosts wild salmon populations, migratory birds on the Pacific flyway, important estuaries, shellfish beds and the habitats of many rare, threatened or endangered marine and coastal species. The Salish Sea is already suffering intense pressures from growth; chronic oiling and spills will only intensify the declining health of this ecologically fragile region.

Last year, the federal auditor general expressed concern about risks, gaps and inadequacies in Canada’s marine oil spill response system. The audit found that current spill response capacity by Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Coast Guard is insufficient to respond to spills in any of Canada’s oceans.

Read more, here.

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