Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Links to CBC BC Radio Interviews and Afterthoughts

Here's a link to the podcast of an interview I did with Stephen Quinn of "On the Coast", CBC Vancouver's late afternoon radio show, on July 26, 2012 . And here's a link to my interview with Jo-Ann Roberts of CBC Victoria's "All Points West" the following day.

There are many points I might have added, had there been more time, such as:

1) In addition to being hard to clean up, bitumen spills are hard to detect, especially since the oil tends to float below the surface;

2) Although it is almost twenty years old, the Canadian marine oil spill response regime has never really been seriously tested. Drills take place each year, but there has not been a real, live, catastrophic spill incident in all those years. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

3) In Prince William Sound, there are five escort tugs plus a salvage tug available 24/7. Enbridge is proposing two escort tugs, and there are no salvage tugs along the BC coast.

4) If the polluter is either unknown, unwilling or unable to clean up a spill, Canadian Coast Guard will take over the operation and send the bill to the polluter. It is generally assumed that in the event of a 'catastrophic' oil spill, time will not be wasted waiting to see if the polluter is capable. Instead, Coast Guard will take over post haste, commandeering all available equipment from both the public and private sectors.

5) The BC government, in its recent position paper on heavy oil pipeline oil spills, actually overestimates the risk of a major spill by a factor of ten: whereas BC cites a return period of one spill in 1,500 years, Enbridge calculates it at one in 15,000 years. No, that is not a misprint!

6) As one might have gathered by reading between the lines of the BC oil spill position paper, there is a virtual war going on between Victoria and Ottawa when it comes to the marine oil spill response regime. The situation has at times been so bad in the past decade or more that Canadian ability to effectively respond to a catastrophic oil spill anywhere along the BC coast would have been seriously compromised. This dangerous situation cannot be allowed to continue! The two levels of government must immediately sit down and iron out their differences, before disaster results.

7) Curiously, Enbridge's announcement last week that it will now spend an additional $500 million on enhanced Northern Gateway safety measures included nothing in the area of improvements to marine oil spill prevention and response, one of the most contentious elements of the project.

8) If BC really wants a world class marine oil spill response regime, it should start by cleaning up its own act. Neighbouring Washington State, with just fraction of the coastline that BC has, has a far more extensive and better-funded spill prevention and response program than BC.

9) Kinder Morgan has been misled into thinking that bitumen floats in the ocean. I have it on good authority, from a leading expert on the properties and fate of spilled oil, that while certain types of bitumen may not submerge, most will after weathering for a while.

10) If it is determined that either tanker project proposed for BC's coast could have significant adverse environmental impacts, then that project should not proceed; it's as simple as that. In other words, it is never a question of seeking financial compensation in advance for risk incurred. Rather, it is a matter of ensuring that projects that are either unsafe or too risky, after mitigation is factored in, do not go forward. Period! If BC's Premier does not understand that principle, she is either completely incompetent or she is getting dreadfully bad advice ( or both! ).

Lastly, I'm boycotting the review process for this project, in protest at Harper usurping veto power over the project from the Panel, and because the marine transportation component of the project has already been approved, under TERMPOL- a decision that is unlikely to be overturned by a Panel consisting of three members with no demonstrable marine expertise. So, this is the last post!


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