‘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

 

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

Just Posted

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

Hospital outbreaks included in Fraser Health update Feb. 28, 2021. (Black Press file)
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreaks at Chilliwack General and Surrey Memorial

The medicine units are temporarily closed but ERs remain open, according to Fraser Health update

.
COVID-19 cases increasing again in Fraser Health

Fraser North is seeing the greatest growth, Fraser East also heading up

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

FILE  - In this Friday, Jan 1, 2021 file photo, a lorry driver's documents are scanned on a phone as he passes a checkpoint for the train through the Eurotunnel link with Europe in Folkestone, England. One month after Britain made a New Year split from the European Union's economic embrace, businesses that once traded freely are getting used to frustrating checks, delays and red tape. Meat exporters say shipments have rotted in trucks awaiting European health checks. Scottish fishermen have protested at Parliament over the catch they can no longer sell to the continent because of byzantine new paperwork. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Inez Louis, who is strategic operations planner with the health department in the Sto:lo Service Agency, talks about infection control in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Nurse Inez Louis explains how infection control is not social control

The difference is important for Indigenous people to hear in the context of Canada’s colonial past

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Most Read