Finger Pointing and Oiled Beaches

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Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC ‘woefully unprepared’ for more pipelines, tankers: An Open Letter to Christy Clark
by Ben West of the group Tanker Free BC

Dear Premier Clark, in a 2013 interview with Peter Mansbridge, you discussed Canada’s inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future should new pipelines be approved.

“We are woefully under-resourced,” you said.

In that same year your government rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project in part because of concerns around oil spills.

Ocean pollution specialist Dr. Peter Ross
displays an oily substance from English Bay
(Vancouver Aquarium)

“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said then B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake in a May 31 media release.
“Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

On April 9th, 2015 a oil spill took place in the Vancouver Harbour. City of Vancouver staff were not even informed until the next morning and later that day it was revealed that 6 hours went by before booms were put in place. Oil has washed up on the beaches of Stanley Park, Jericho Beach and Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver among other places. No signs were put up on beaches to warn residents and visitors. At this time it is still unknown exactly how much oil was spilled or even by whom. The apparent lack of coordination seems to prove your point from 2013, we clearly are “woefully unprepared”.

To make things worse we now know that the recently closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station could have had booms in the water within six minutes, as opposed to six hours. Next month the Vancouver Coast Guard MCTS centre that regulates shipping movements in Vancouver Harbour is scheduled to close. These are our marine traffic controllers?!?

There are also plans to close the Regional Marine Information Centre (RMIC).The RMIC notifies responders, government agencies such as Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Environmental Response and others so a proper response can be mobilized.

The Harper Conservatives will CLOSE this notification centre on May 6, 2015 as part of the larger cuts to the west coast marine safety network. The Coast Guard will also cease providing anchorage assistance to ships, including tankers when the MCTS centre closes and moved to Victoria next month. This is strongly opposed by BC Coast Pilots and Port Metro Vancouver.

Ottawa hasn’t developed or implemented any replacement system for the dissemination of these pollution reports.

Yet your government continues to allow the Harper Government to call the shots when it comes to decisions about pipelines that would lead to massive increases in tanker and other vessel traffic in BC.

Please make this oil spill incident in our harbour the last straw. Please do as municipal leaders from across the province have requested via a resolution at the Union of BC Municipalities and withdraw BC from the National Energy Boards process regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project. And please formally withdraw from the “equivalency agreement” with the Federal Government that puts the environmental assessment and public consultation process under their control.

These are clearly not world class safety standards. Please stand up for the BC coast and do not allow the discussion of increased tanker traffic to continue until the current safety issues are addressed.

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