B.C. oil spill study misinterpreted

Tom Fletcher points out flaws in oil spill studies.

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. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Parks acquires private land in Cape Scott Provincial Park

Land previously held by B.C. land and cattle mogul Rudy Nielsen

Family Literacy Society surveying essential skills among displaced workers

Survey results will help get training opportunities to fufill real needs on the north Island

A thousand items donated to the Port Hardy RCMP’s summer toy drive

‘Building strong relationships with the people of our communities is fundamental to our success here’

VIDEO: Rescued eagle released back into the wild

The three-year-old female had been mired in grease at the landfill, but recovered with gusto

U’mista Cultural Centre will host a native art contest to raise funds for artists

All artists of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw descent are being called to participate in the contest to be held on August 28

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

B.C. marine ecologist wants Canada to sink its teeth into shark protection

Gulf Islands scientist says top predator under shocking threat from human behaviour

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Most Read