‘The Greatest Threat to the B.C. Environment in our Lifetime’

Black Press chairman David Black talks about why he wants to build a refinery in Kitimat, and why oil bitumen cannot be exported to Asia.

My name is David Black. I am the majority owner of Black Press, the company that owns this newspaper. This is the first of two columns addressing what I see as the greatest threat to the B.C. environment in our lifetime. I am a reasonably sensible and conservative businessman, not an alarmist. All of the information in this column can be confirmed from public sources.

The oil industry wants to export Alberta bitumen to Asia via tankers. Under no circumstances should we allow that to happen. A bitumen spill at sea could destroy our coastline, together with the fish and wildlife that depend on it, for hundreds of years.

Bitumen, even if it is diluted, does not float in sea water if there is sediment present. This has been proven many times, most recently in a thorough Environment Canada study published on November 30, 2013. Page 51 of the study provides graphic evidence of sunken bitumen.

Given that there is an abundance of sediment along the B.C. coast, the bitumen will sink rapidly and there will be little chance of recovering any of it if there is a spill.

By Northern Gateway’s own admission, the likelihood of a bitumen spill at sea is over 10 per cent over the next 50 years. Others say that it is much higher. We are in agreement with the position taken by the Coastal First Nations that even the slightest risk of a spill of bitumen at sea is unacceptable.

The grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 is often held up as an example of how bad an oil spill at sea can be. However, a spill of bitumen at sea would be much worse.

The Exxon Valdez carried light crude and lost 250,000 barrels, one eighth of a tanker load. The light oil floated and could be removed from the beaches. Even so, after four years of work with up to 11,000 workers and 1,400 boats involved, less than 10 per cent of it was recovered. Roughly 200,000 birds and many kinds of other wildlife were killed. Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were affected and the fishery has yet to fully recover. Bitumen is very different. It would harden up on shore and much of it would sink to the bottom, making it unrecoverable and killing virtually everything with which it came in contact. Imagine if we lost a full tanker load.

Some say that, with GPS-based navigation and double hulls, spills such as Exxon Valdez are not possible today. They are wrong. Double hulls do not prevent hull fracture if there is a collision at speed, only if there is a gentle scrape. As for the GPS claim, most marine accidents are caused by human inattention, not by a lack of knowledge about position. All ships carried systems to indicate their location before GPS came along. The Exxon Valdez crew could have glanced at their instruments to determine their location but they didn’t; neither did the crew on the Queen of the North.

Marine disasters regularly occur and a quick search of the Internet shows human error is most often the problem. Undoubtedly, there will be many more marine accidents in future. Our grandchildren will not thank us if we willingly risk the destruction of the BC coast on our watch.

Fortunately there is a solution that is beneficial for all concerned: all we have to do is build a refinery at Kitimat. The refinery will convert the bitumen to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, which float and evaporate if they are spilled. Often little or no spill remediation is required. These refined fuels simply do not cause the habitat destruction of conventional or synthetic crude oil, or anywhere near the devastation caused by bitumen.

The second part of this op-ed will run in the next issue in print, and online here. It will discuss the enormous value-add benefits and environmental advantages of a modern green refinery.  The pipeline from Alberta and the tanker fleet to export the refined fuels will also be considered.

Let me declare my biases. I am for creating thousands of good permanent jobs in B.C. I am for creating billions of new tax dollars for government coffers. I am for reducing the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. I am for building an oil pipeline that will never leak. I am for building a modern tanker fleet that carries only refined fuels that float and evaporate if spilled. I am against shipping bitumen in tankers.

If you agree that we should not put bitumen in tankers please contact your local MP and say so. The Canadian government makes a decision on this next month.

– David Black

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas votes in favour of eliminating overtime pay for confidential secretary

“I think when staff makes a recommendation I have to support staff’s recommendation.”

PHOTOS: Port McNeill residents remember the fallen

A huge crowd of Port McNeill residents came out on Nov. 11… Continue reading

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Port Alice resident a descendant of two Aboriginal war heroes

Charlie and Henry Byce are Canada’s most decorated father and son in history.

Port Hardy council hesitant to formalize question period in agendas, refers it to committee

In first act as new council, representatives were uncertain about formalizing question periods.

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Most Read