Crude oil tankers regularly ply the waters around Greater Victoria and southern Gulf Islands, but most British Columbians are unaware that the coastline is being exposed to the risk of catastrophe, Green Party of Canada leaders said yesterday.
“This has been one of the best-kept anti-environmental secrets in Canada,” said party leader Elizabeth May, who is calling for a legislated West Coast tanker ban. “Few people realize that Alberta tarsands tankers, carrying crude oil, are passing by the largest population centres and some of the richest marine areas along B.C.’s coast.”
May and deputy leader Adriane Carr used a backdrop of the Gulf Islands and preening cormorants at a Sidney news conference, where they announced the Greens will join other groups in Ottawa Nov. 15 to demand legislation.
A ban on oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast and Inside Passage was brought in by the former federal Liberal government. But it was never written into legislation and is described by the current government as a voluntary ban.
It is unclear whether that ban intended to include the south coast.
Since 2007, shipments of crude through the Port of Vancouver have increased. Oil transportation company Kinder Morgan Canada is looking at expanding its pipeline from Alberta.
The current capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline is 300,000 barrels a day, but could be expanded up to 700,000 barrels a day.
Not all of that is shipped on tankers, and expansion will proceed only when there are commercial agreements in place with customers and public support, said Lexa Hobenshield, Kinder Morgan external relations manager.
“Any expansion activity needs a thorough public and First Nations consultation process. After that process, a regulatory review would ensue,” said Hobenshield, who added that the timeframe is probably at least five years.
The number of oil tankers manoeuvring through the confines of Second Narrows, then through the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca Strait, before heading to refineries in Washington, continues to grow. Last year, 65 tankers left Westridge tanker terminal, compared to 40 in 2008.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist