Environmental groups have slammed plans of increasing the number of Kinder Morgan tankers in Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia, amid fears of oil spills and the impact on the marine environment in the region.
The concern has been raised following an oil spill off the coast of Vancouver resulting from a barge that sank near Port Mellon on January 31.
It is said that hundreds of litres of diesel were spilled from the barge, however, the Canadian Coast Guard is yet to determine the exact amount of the oil spilled.
“Two Coast Guard vessels and three Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s vessels are on site responding and cleaning up. A boom has deployed around the sunken barge MJ Green. There is no indication of further upwelling of pollution at this point,” the Coast Guard said on Wednesday.
Howe Sound is the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation, who have never given consent for oil tankers to traverse their territory.
“When spills happen, they can devastate our coastline. Oil spills directly impact our economy, culture, and community who have lived off our homelands for thousands of years. The risk of spills is always present in our minds, and our communities feel the consequences,” Squamish Nation Councilor and Spokesperson Dustin Rivers said.
“The oil spill in Howe Sound will have devastating impacts on the resident orca and salmon populations that our Indigenous cultures are dependent on,” William George, member of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said.
“Just this month we saw orcas around the Sunshine Coast. The Kinder Morgan tanker increase puts Indigenous culture, ceremony and food at too great a risk”.
Environmental organizations along the coast stand with the Squamish Nation and local communities, and are preparing to support in the aftermath of this oil spill to this territory, including sending personnel to document the spill with a drone and video cameras, the Squamish Nation’s Council said.
This barge sinking, and the lack of information provided to the impacted communities, demonstrates that the West Coast is not prepared, and cannot afford the 700 percent tanker increase proposed by the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion project, the council added.
The project intends to add approximately 980 km of new pipeline and reactivate 193 km of existing pipeline. To support the expanded pipeline, new facilities will include 12 new pump stations, 19 new tanks added to existing storage terminals, and three new berths at the Westridge Marine Terminal. The expansion will see 400 more tankers deployed to the region per annum.
“The oil spill foreshadows what’s to come if Kinder Morgan is allowed to bring 400 tankers to the coast each year. The accident is a stark and gut-wrenching reminder of why we need more protection for critical species such as salmon and herring and more scientific study of spill response readiness on the coast,” Jessica Wilson, Head of the Oil Campaign at Greenpeace Canada, added.
“This is another reminder of what is at stake if we allow Canada’s west coast to be turned into a superhighway for crude oil exports,” Sven Biggs, campaigner for Stand.earth, noted.
At the end of January, the B.C. government announced the development of a series of new oil spill response measures, including a proposal to restrict the increased transport of bitumen while a scientific panel determines the impacts of spills on aquatic environments.
“Today’s (January 30) announcement is a major blow to Kinder Morgan. The province is proposing what is, in essence, a temporary moratorium on new bitumen exports. We know bitumen and water don’t mix; when the scientific panel comes to the same conclusion, Kinder Morgan will be the owner of a brand new pipeline with no ‘on’ switch,” Greenpeace Canada Climate & Energy Campaigner, Mike Hudema, said.
“A tanker spill on the ocean, like the Paris-sized spill caused by the Sanchi tanker earlier this month, would be virtually impossible to clean up and the impacts could last decades. A spill from just one of the 400-plus tankers from Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline would devastate the coast. Despite these known risks, the National Energy Board did not consider the most up-to-date scientific assessment of bitumen’s impacts on marine life when it approved Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline. We hope the scientific panel the B.C. government announced today will correct this error and bring sorely lacking evidence-based decision-making to the fore.”
Nevertheless, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his commitment to making sure Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion is built and added the USD billion project is not a threat to Canada’s West Coast, Reuters reported.
World Maritime News Staff