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

Local rock hound carves a 9-tonne granite grizzly bear

Chilliwack’s Paul McCarl’s about to complete a carving project 14 years in the making

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

GW Graham basketball star signs on with Trinity Western Spartans

Grizzly grad Jaya Bannerman is opting to stay close to home after graduating in June.

Metro gas prices hit 155.7 cents a litre and higher

Lower Mainland could see 1.60 cents by April

WATCH: Giant Flowers artwork going up at Evans roundabout in Chilliwack

The artwork installation Tuesday was causing very little traffic disruption for Chilliwack drivers

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

B.C.-pioneered wood construction on a roll internationally

Washington state considers mandatory engineered wood for public buildings

Cops say gun-toting robbers used fake police lights to pull over victims

Information wanted on North Shuswap robbery, police impersonation, burnt vehicle, motorhome theft.

BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings close to advancing

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

VSO to perform ‘Star Wars’ music while 1977 movie plays on big screen

Three shows for the classic at iconic Orpheum Theatre this summer

B.C. emergency alert system being tested Wednesday

Alarm tone and message will play on TV and radio

BC Conservatives pumped by poll results

Surge in popularity has BC party picturing elected representatives in Victoria

5 to start your day

A serious crash in Langley, Surrey man wanted in connection to vicious assault and more

Most Read