B.C. VIEWS: Oil spill study misinterpreted

The B.C. government study of oil spill preparedness created the usual wave of media shock, horror and distorted conclusions

Oil tanker exits Second Narrows with Alberta crude from TransMountain pipeline terminal at Burnaby. An oil port for 100 years

VICTORIA – The release of the B.C. government’s detailed study into oil spill response capability off the West Coast created the usual brief wave of media shock and horror.

This just in! If crude oil spilled in the Dixon Entrance, the storm-tossed sea lane north of Haida Gwaii, the combined resources of Canadian and U.S. containment and collection response could only recover an estimated four per cent of it. And that’s in the summer! The winter recovery rate would be more like three per cent.

Talk radio and website headlines set the narrative in minutes. How could anyone even consider running oil tankers through that pristine B.C. coastal area? It’s crazy!

Here’s the big fact clearly stated in the study by U.S.-based Nuka Research and Planning Group, and ignored by most of the media and public. There are hundreds of tankers filled with crude oil sailing through these stormy seas every year. It’s been going on since Alaska North Slope crude was developed in the 1970s.

Six of the seven oil spill simulations run by Nuka are based on Alaska crude, because that’s overwhelmingly what has been shipped along B.C.’s North Coast for 40 years. This lack of crude oil spill response capability has existed the entire time, without a whisper of protest or media attention, even after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster near the oil’s point of origin.

The current narrative, hammered home by U.S.-controlled environmental groups and their aboriginal partners in the “Great Bear Rainforest,” is that only Canadian oil is a threat.

How much Alaska crude is shipped down the B.C. coast? According to Nuka’s analysis, it’s currently about 38 million cubic metres each year. That’s enough to fill B.C. Place stadium to the roof – 15 times.

The Sierra-Greenpeace-ForestEthics-Dogwood gang, a sort of billionaire-bankrolled green Team America, has worked hard to promote the falsehood that “tar sands” oil is vastly worse than that nice fair-trade Alaska stuff. Their claims about acidity and abrasiveness of diluted bitumen didn’t hold up, and it’s still hotly contested whether the heavy oil in diluted bitumen would float, emulsify or sink in actual sea conditions.

When the federal government announced a study to determine what spilled bitumen would do in North Coast waters, that too was attacked by the Green Party as a secret scheme to prop up Enbridge’s pipeline proposal. So it’s a scandal when you don’t know the answers, and it’s a scandal when you try to find them.

Another question that gets little attention is whether it’s better for spilled oil to sink rather than wash up on beaches.

Crude oil is, if you’ll pardon the expression, organic. Spills produce a huge spike in oil-eating bacteria that leads to an increase in fish populations at a certain stage. This was documented in a 1994 book called Degrees of Disaster, written by an expert who stayed on in Valdez for four years, long after the TV cameras and grandstanding politicians went home.

Victoria-based Dogwood seized on a 2012 Nuka study done for the Haisla Nation at Kitimat, which found that in ocean conditions that are present more than half of the time, there would be no immediate way to respond to a spill at sea.

Dogwood’s “no tankers campaign director” hinted that this information was intentionally left out of the B.C. government study, and the media ate it up.

No tankers? Better check again.

Dogwood’s mission is clearly not to protect the B.C. coast from oil spills. If it were, they would be protesting the ongoing risk from Alaska tankers.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com. Twitter:@tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

High winds knock out power to thousands in Cowichan Valley

Most of the outages were relatively brief

Caps start well on Interior road trip

Cowichan beats host Vernon Vipers 3-1 on Friday

Operation Popcorn visits Cowichan District Hospital

Transplant patient thanks workers for gift of life

VIDEO: Cobble Hill welcomes Christmas with frolicsome show

From lovely carols to humorous skits: a big crowd enjoyed it all on Sunday, Dec. 9

Coming up in Cowichan: Celebrate the second floor with the HUB

Celebrate the second floor this weekend at HUB at Cowichan Station Dec.… Continue reading

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Most Read