The federal government outlined new tanker safety measures in Vancouver Monday, measures aimed at increasing support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning projects.
The detailed announcement as it appears on the Transport Canada website (as of 2250 PT Monday March 18) seems to redesignate the port of Kitimat, which has been private since the town was built 60 years ago, as a public port, saying (and misspelling the town’s name)
Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kimitat.
The Transport Canada news release which also says Kitimat will be a public port does spell the name correctly.
Bill C-57 which was introduced in the House of Commons on Monday makes no mention of redesignating Kitimat as a public port. Bill C-57 is the bill needed to implement the measures announced by the government on Monday.
Other measures as outlined in the news release are:
Today, the government has also tabled the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which is amending the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The proposed amendments will:
strengthen the current requirements for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities;
increase Transport Canada’s oversight and enforcement capacity by equipping marine safety inspectors with the tools to enforce compliance;
introduce new offences for contraventions of the Act and extend penalties relating to pollution; and
enhance response to oil spill incidents by removing legal barriers that could otherwise block agents of Canadian response organizations from participating in clean-up operations.
In addition, the Ministers announced eight measures to strengthen Canada’s tanker safety system:
Tanker inspections: The number of inspections will increase to ensure that all foreign tankers are inspected on their first visit to Canada, and annually thereafter, to ensure they comply with rules and regulations, especially with respect to double hulls.
Systematic surveillance and monitoring of ships: The government will expand the National Aerial Surveillance Program.
Incident Command System: The government will establish a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Incident Command System, which will allow it to respond more effectively to an incident and integrate its operations with key partners.
Pilotage programs: We will review existing pilotage and tug escort requirements to see what more will be needed in the future.
Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.
Scientific research: The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.
New and modified aids to navigation: The CCG will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained.
Modern navigation system: The CCG will develop options for enhancing Canada’s current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) by fall 2013 for government consideration.
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen called the statement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and Transport Minister Denis Lebel as “greenwash.”
Cullen called the announcement in Vancouver “another attempt to distract from the real and serious environmental, social and economic threat the Northern Gateway pipeline poses to British Columbia.”
The government’s announcement that it will take new steps to increase inspections and aerial surveillance of tankers does not come close to addressing the real concerns that British Columbians and Canadians have about oil spills on the majestic BC coast, said Cullen.
“I think concerned citizens will look at these proposals and, like we have, conclude they’re half-measures,” said Cullen. “People have credible fears about the project,” noting a recent study from the University of British Columbia which pegged the potential costs of a major oil spill on BC’s north coast at $9.6 billion, and the fact that Northern Gateway hasn’t provided convincing real-world evidence that their primary spill response mechanisms – booms, skimmers and dispersants – will be able to work along the BC coast. Cullen also pointed to calculations by a 25-year veteran in the oil spill response industry, which used Enbridge’s own research to show a 8.7% to 14.1% chance of a major oil spill in the project’s first fifty years.
“The risks are enormous, and the consequences of a spill would be devastating,” Cullen noted. “But the prime minister and his cabinet appear to have already made up their minds about the project, so rather than actually listen and respond to the concerns of British Columbians, they’ll resort to half-measures and playing the public relations game.
“Since they came to a majority, the government has taken every opportunity to undermine our environmental assessment process, muzzle scientists, and slash protections for our lakes and rivers. And now they’re realizing they’ve axed their own credibility on the environment and public engagement. If the government were serious about convincing the public that this is a safe project, they’d take the time to sit down with the communities and address the big picture facts about this project, instead of going for the low-hanging fruit like they’ve done today.”
Links to Transport Canada backgrounders
Creation of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel
World-Class Tanker Safety System: Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act)
World-Class Tanker Safety System: Safe tankers through rigorous inspection and prevention
World-Class Tanker Safety System: liability and compensation
MORE TO COME