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

Oak Bay cyclists have new resource to aid in health and fitness

Bike Fix Station installed at Rec Centre thanks to Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Elizabeth May arrested at Kinder Morgan protest

Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, speaks out against pipeline

Esquimalt High robotics students engineer their way to Texas

Rookie team qualifies for FIRST World Championship after breathing life into armed robot Spike

Large Kinder Morgan pipeline protest at Victoria MP office

Dozens gathered out front of Murray Rankin’s constituency office Friday to protest Trans Mountain pipeline

5 must-do things this weekend in Greater Victoria

Soccer playoffs, hockey playoffs, Dunahee run, art show and Lego

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 23, 2018

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

Vancouver Island pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions we received from around the region

MLA Report: Lowering the voting age to 16 in BC

By Andrew Weaver On March 13, I introduced for a third time… Continue reading

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

Comox Valley hospital operating above patient capacity

The new healthcare facility averaged a 110 per cent patient volume between October and February

B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

Most Read