The Canadian Coast Guard says it will undertake “a significant environmental response operation” because more oil is leaking from the sunken Second World War United States Army Transport vessel, the Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski.
Hot tapping is a well-known and frequently used method of removing oil from the tanks of stricken vessels. Holes are carefully drilled into the side of the vessel to access fuel-tanks and then hot steam is pumped into the tanks. The steam increases the temperature of the oil and enables it to flow more easily. The oil is then pumped to the surface for safe disposal.
The procedure can be done with holes of very small sizes up to very large diameters. Hot tapping is used in both marine and land-based scenarios.
The Canadian Coast Guard says it “has engaged the Gitga’at First Nation and the Province of British Columbia to participate in the operation and maintain a presence at the wreck site” and will keep the Gitga’at First Nation informed of what is going on:
The Coast Guard recognizes that given their proximity to the Zalinski site and their interest in the oil recovery operation, the Gitga’at need to be informed on the progress of the operation and that they have important local knowledge and skill that will be beneficial to the operation.
The Coast Guard says that environmental monitoring in January and March of 2013, discovered “further upwelling” of oil and added new patches to the sunken vessel.
The Coast Guard says: “Although the patches from 2012 and 2013 remain in place, early patches have begun to leak and the Canadian Coast Guard has determined that the structural integrity of the vessel is deteriorating.”
The USAT Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski was built in 1919 and served as a United States Army Transport vessel during the Second World War. It ran aground during a storm and sank in 1946 in the Grenville Channel about 100 kilometres south of Prince Rupert.
In September 2003, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Maple reported pollution in the Grenville Channel to the Canadian Coast Guard.
The CCGS Tanu investigated the source of the pollution and collected oil samples, but, the news release says, the vessel remained elusive and undetected.
A month later, more oil pollution was spotted so the Canadian Coast Guard used a remotely operated underwater vehicle which located the Zalinski.
New pollution was reported in the channel in October 2003 by a commercial airline pilot and at this time the Coast Guard suspected that the source of the upwelling of oil was an old wreck.
In 2003 and 2004, the Canadian Coast Guard contracted divers to patch the vessel to prevent the leak of oil.
The Coast Guard says it regularly monitored the site with the help of Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program. Local First Nations Groups also monitored the wreck site.
More oil was spotted in April 2012, and at that time, contract divers patched the Zalinski with an epoxy that hardens underwater.
The Coast Guard says new dive footage has shown that metal rivets that hold the hull’s plates are corroding and that the hull is buckling.
as the state of the vessel deteriorates, the Coast Guard has determined that to prevent any harm to the environment, a significant operation should be undertaken to remove the oil from the vessel. The Canadian Coast Guard will be the on-scene commander for the duration of the operation, directing the recovery and the removal of marine pollutants from the vessel and actively monitoring the operation.
The Canadian Coast Guard has also engaged the province of British Columbia and local First Nations groups to solicit their feedback on the operation. On July 26, 2013, Public Works and Government Services Canada posted two requests for proposal seeking a third-party to conduct the oil removal operation and oil spill response services to assist in the case that any oil leaks from the vessel as the operation progresses.
It is expected that the operation will begin in September 2013 and will conclude in December 2013. The Coast Guard says because the Grenville Channel is so narrow, some restrictions on vessel traffic in the Inland Passage will be needed.
The Grenville Channel is a narrow fjord-like waterway with significant tidal fluctuations and currents up to three knots. The shoreline is rocky and steep with little shoreline vegetation.
The Grenville Channel sees commercial fishing vessels, ferries, cruise ships, and pleasure craft transiting its waters on a regular basis, with increased frequency in the summer months. These waters, naturally shielded from stronger offshore winds and weather conditions, are the preferred route of many cruise ships.
The more mild sailing conditions and the stunning natural beauty of the area make the Grenville channel one of the scenic highlights of many marine travellers on Canada’s West Coast.
“‘Trust me’ is not good enough in this case,” the filing by BC government lawyer Christopher Jones says of Enbridge’s plans to handle any possible disaster from either a pipeline rupture or a tanker spill.
Some of the arguments from the province’s lawyers echo points about the Kitimat Valley raised by Douglas Channel Watch and the Haisla Nation, at one point, pointing directly to evidence from Douglas Channel Watch’s Dave Shannon.
The news release repeats Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for the Northern Gateway and other projects, putting a positive spin on the much harsher legal argument.
“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 Environment Minister Terry Lake. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”
“We have carefully considered the evidence that has been presented to the Joint Review Panel,” said Lake. “The panel must determine if it is appropriate to grant a certificate for the project as currently proposed on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning after the certificate is granted. Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered.”
The provincial government has established, and maintains, strict conditions in order for British Columbia to consider the construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines in the province.
Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Northern Gateway, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;
World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments;
World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;
Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and
British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.
In its filing the province tells the JRP:
While the Joint Review Panel (“JRP”) may of course consider other factors in its recommendation, the Province submits that the JRP must accord very significant weight, in the case of this project, to the fact that NG’s plans for terrestrial and marine spill response remain preliminary and that it cannot, today, provide assurance that it will be able to respond effectively to all spills. Given the absence of a credible assurance in this regard, the Province cannot support the approval of or a positive recommendation from the JRP regarding, this project as it was presented to the JRP.
In the alternative, should the JRP recommend approval of the pipeline, the JRP must impose clear, measurable and enforceable conditions that require NG to live up to the commitments it has made in this proceeding.
Hazards from Kitimat’s geoglacial clay
The provincial government identifies a major potential hazard in the Kitimat valley, glacio-marine clay deposits that “threaten the integrity of the pipeline.”
Overall the province appears to accept the arguments from Douglas Channel Watch and other environmental groups that geo hazards along the pipeline route present a significant risk, one perhaps underestimated by Enbridge Northern Gateway.
NG does not dispute that spills from the pipeline may occur. While the project will be new, and built using modern technology, the fact remains that pipeline spills do happen. Indeed, Enbridge had 11 releases greater than 1000 barrels between 2002 and 2012…
The Province has concerns about the assertions NG has made regarding the probability for full-bore releases resulting from geohazards. NG asserts that full-bore spills will be very rare. However, this assertion must be considered in light of the fact that NG’s analysis of the geohazards that the pipeline could face is at a preliminary stage….
The rugged topography of West Central British Columbia is prone to slope failures.
Terrain instability may pose significant challenges for linear development.
Despite these challenging admits that its assessment of existing and potential geohazards along the pipeline route is not complete and that further investigations and more detailed geohazard mapping are required. For instance, although NG acknowledges that the potential presence of glacio-marine clays in the lower Kitimat Valley can threaten the integrity of a pipeline; its report on glacio-marine clay fails to identify a significant area of potential instability that had been previously reported in the relevant literature…
Since all geotechnical hazards have not been identified with the investigations carried out to date, and since comprehensive investigations will not be completed until the detailed design phase, NG has but a rough idea of the mitigation measures that may be employed in order to mitigate the geotechnical hazards that may be encountered…
The province’s arguments also indicates that Enbridge Northern Gateway has not done a good enough job regarding spill response, whether from a full bore rupture or a pin hole leak.
it must be remembered that full-bore spills are less frequent than smaller spills, which could still have a significant environmental effect. Indeed, since risk equals consequence times probability, smaller spills could pose a higher risk as they are more frequent. While NG has produced considerable evidence with respect to the likelihood and effects of full-bore spills… the evidence concerning the potential for other spills is limited. While the Province supports assessing the effects of any spill based on a full-bore release, as it would allow for an analysis of the worst-case scenario, focus on full-bore releases should not eliminate consideration of the potential impact of smaller events…
NG stated that [a] table [in the evidence], which includes probabilities for medium sized spills, would be “replaced by. a detailed characterization of each pipeline kilometre and region as part of the ongoing risk assessment work,” but the province says, a later table that “now replaces the concept of large and medium spills”. focussed only on full-bore releases, a relatively rare event.
Similarly, NG also calculated spill return periods for pinhole and greater-than-pinhole events. Taking the figures NG for “greater-than-pinhole” releases results in a spill return figure of 76.7 years. The Province also has concerns about the information that NG has provided in this regard. First, because it focussed on spill events, there is no information about spill size, which, we submit is a critical issue in considering the risk posed by these kinds of events. Second, NG does not include the potential for spills that could occur as a result of “operating and maintenance procedures” that deviate from the norm. Finally, NG assumes that all geotechnical threats would result in a full-bore rupture. This assumption appears to be incorrect…
Premier Christy Clark has, as part of her five conditions, said there must be a world class spill response system. Enbridge responded by saying there will be. The province then turns around and says Enbridge has failed to do prove it.
Because of the potential for spills, and their impact, NG has committed to develop a comprehensive spill response capability. Indeed, NG has stated that it intends to have a “world-class response capability” for the Project. Given the real potential for spills to occur, and the devastating effect of a spill should a significant one take place, the Province submits that NG must show that it would be able to effectively respond to a spill. As set out below, the Province submits that it has failed to do so.
High stream flow, heavy snow at Kitimat
Again, the province appears to accept arguments from Douglas Channel Watch that Enbridge has underestimated the challenges of handling a spill in a remote area. The province also accepts the argument that booms are ineffective in high stream flow in the Kitimat River.
Although it asserts that it will be able to effectively respond to any spill, NG admits that responding to a spill from the pipeline will be challenging. In particular, it admits that a spill into a watercourse at a difficult to access location would present the greatest difficulty for clean-up and remediation…
Many parts of the pipeline will be located in remote areas, located some distance from road networks and population centres. For example, many of the rivers… are identified as remote or having no access. Road access to the pipeline and places where a spill might travel down a watercourse is important to allow for effective spill response…
In some cases, the steepness of the terrain will make responding to spills very challenging. NG acknowledges that the Coast Mountains’ topography is extreme…
As the JRP noted during cross examination by the Province of NG with respect to the Clore River, it has had the opportunity to take a view of the entire route. It will therefore know the steep and rugged terrain through which the pipeline would pass.
The presence of woody debris could also pose a challenge to spill response, requiring a shift of response activities to upstream locations…
If a spill were to occur during a period of high flow conditions, a common occurrence in British Columbia rivers, then some aspects of the response may have to be curtailed, or at least delayed until the high flow event recedes. At certain water velocities, booms become ineffective, and are potentially unsafe to operate.
The presence of heavy snow could also impede access during response operations, requiring use of snowmobiles, snow cats, and helicopters. In the Upper Kitimat and Hoult Creek Valleys, snow accumulation can reach 8-9 metres. However, weather may limit the ability of helicopters to aid in spill response…
Many of these challenges are recognized by NG. In the Preliminary Kitimat River Drainage Area Emergency Preparedness Report (“Kitimat Report”), NG refers to the challenges of winter conditions, avalanches and debris slides, heavy snow, spring melt, Fall freeze-up, patchy ice, and fast-flowing watercourses.
The province also accepts the argument that under some circumstances that diluted bitumen can sink, arguments raised by David Shannon of Douglas Channel Watch.
These challenges are compounded by the fact that in certain conditions diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) can sink in a watercourse. This occurred in the case of Enbridge’s spill in Michigan. This was, as a result, an issue of significant importance to the parties in this proceeding…
The evidence presented by NG in this regard is inconsistent. For example, some evidence it presented suggests that dilbit may sink when it enters water, after a process of weathering; other evidence it has submitted suggests that dilbit will only sink if it combines with sediment. In its response to [a submission by the Haisla Nation] NG states that “If diluted bitumen becomes heavily weathered some oil may sink in fresh water environments.” Similarly, in its response to Dave Shannon’s IR No. 1, NG states that
Diluted bitumen emulsions will remain buoyant in waters with densities greater than approximately 1.015 g/cc. If the water density drops below approximately 1.015 g/cc,in zones of fresh-water intrusion, weathered and emulsified diluted bitumen products may sink to the depth where the density increases to above 1.015 g/cc.
Similar also is NG’s response to Dr. Weir’s IR No. 2.6, where NG states:
The weathered diluted bitumen would have a density approaching 1.0 g/cc, which indicates that once the diluted bitumen weathers it may be susceptible to sinking in fresh water.
Finally, in the Kitimat Report NG states that:
Examples that may lead to oil not remaining on the water surface include:
• Oils with specific gravities equal to or greater than the receiving medium (fresh- or saltwater)
• Oils that have weathered and, in losing lighter-end fractions, have reached a specific gravity equal to or greater than the receiving water
• Oil that is near the same density as the receiving water and that is characterized as a 3-dimensional flow (non-laminar to turbulent flow such as found in streams, rivers, areas with fast tidal currents, breaking waves)
• Oil with sediment (mixed into oil or adhered to oil droplets)…
…submerged oil may eventually sink with increased weathering, if in receiving water with lower density, or if sufficient sediment is incorporated.
Northern Gateway contradictory
The province’s argument goes on to point more inconsistencies with Northern Gateway’s submission on dilbit in rivers, telling the JRP “In short, what dilbit will do when it enters water remains unclear.”
On the other hand, another NG witness stated that dilbit cannot sink, as this would be contrary to an “immutable fact of physics”. In cross examination, Dr. Horn, Mr. Belore and other witnesses maintained that dilbit will only sink in the presence of suspended solids, or after a long period of weathering.
However, NG’s evidence with respect to the type of sediment that could combine with dilbit to form material that may sink in water is unclear. Dr. Horn testified that “fine grain sediments…provide the greatest amount of surface area which is one of the reasons that oil sank in [Michigan]”. On the other hand, Mr. Belore appeared to suggest that, in the marine context at least, finer sediments reduce the potential for oil to sink as they are lighter. The evidence with respect to the material that may bind to dilbit and contribute to its sinking is unclear…
NG’s views with respect to the flow conditions under which dilbit may sink is also contradictory. On the one hand, it states that “Higher flow rates and increased turbulence typically will entrain more oil into the water column leading to the potential for oil to enter pore spaces in permeable sediments.” On the other, it states that “Oil sinking is unlikely to occur in areas with fast currents…”
Evidence provided by other parties suggests that dilbit may sink when weathered. In particular, Environment Canada’s evidence in this proceeding contrasts sharply with NG’s. For example, Environment Canada states that:
Northern Gateway’s response planning model does not account for sinking oil or for oil suspended particulate matter interactions…For oils with densities close to that of water, like both the diluted bitumen and synthetic crude products, even small amounts of sediment can cause sinking. Environment Canada is concerned that oil sinking and oil-sediment interactions have been
underestimated in the provided scenarios. In the cases of both the Enbridge-Kalamazoo and the Kinder Morgan-Burnaby spills, significant oil-sediment interactions occurred.
The changes to dilbit as it ages in the environment may affect cleanup. Although initially buoyant in water, with exposure to wind and sun, as well as by mixing with water and sediment in the water, the density of dilbit can increase to the point that the oil may sink. Recovery and mitigation options for sunken oils are limited.
Not only has Environment Canada expressed the view that even small amounts of sediment may cause oil to sink, its witness also stated under cross-examination that high velocity rivers may carry high suspended sediment concentrations, and that, at certain times of the year, sediment load could enter the marine environment. Although NG acknowledges that sediment loads and oil-sediment interactions are a critical factor in predicting the behaviour of spilled oil, it has not, in Environment Canada’s opinion, provided a complete baseline data set on sediment loads, despite requests that such data be provided.
While NG has submitted information respecting the laboratory testing of dilbit, an Environment Canada expert testified that tests conducted in a laboratory setting provide only limited information that cannot be relied upon in isolation to predict the fate and behaviour of hydrocarbons spilled into the environment. Instead, information gathered from real spill events must inform the analysis, and consideration must be given to the conditions, including water temperature, suspended sediment concentrations and wind speed, to be encountered in the “real world”.
Environment Canada has also made it very clear that the evidence provided to date by NG does not allow for a full understanding of the behaviour of spilled dilbit. In the opinion of Environment Canada witnesses, the evidence has not provided sufficientclarity with respect to the weathering, evaporation or sedimentation processes dilbit may be subjected to in the environment. Given the unique nature of this product, further research is warranted before one can ascertain whether dilbit will sink or remain on the water surface. Those concerns were echoed by an expert retained by the Gitxaala Nation.
In addition, the evidence of other parties raises the possibility of the need to respond to submerged oil. NUKA research, on behalf of the Haisla Nation, opined that “submission documents overall still grossly underestimate the potential for sunken or submerged oil, particularly for pipeline spills to rivers.” EnviroEmerg Consulting, for the Living Oceans Society summarizes well the uncertainty that remains with respect to the behaviour of oil:
There are no definitive statements in the [Environmental Impact Statement] EIS to explain if bitumen diluted with condensate will emulsify, sink or do both if spilled. The supporting technical data analysis in the EIS is based on laboratory tests. There are no in-situ field tests, empirical studies, nor real incidents to validate these findings. This raises significant uncertainty that current spill response technologies and equipment designed for conventional oil can track and recover the diluted bitumen in temperate marine waters. In essence, the assumption that the diluted bitumen can be recovered on-water has yet to be tested.
In short, what dilbit will do when it enters water remains unclear. NG recognizes this lack of clarity itself. As was stated by one of its witnesses, “it’s extremely difficult to predict the behaviour of this product”.
NG admits that additional research needs to be done with respect to understanding how dilbit behaviour.
The provincial argument concludes:
The Province has serious concerns about the lack of clarity and certainty about what dilbit will do if it were to enter the water, the preliminary and indeed contradictory nature of the evidence with respect to NG’s remediation strategies and actions to address sunken oil, and the fact that its proposed tactics have not been evaluated for use in British Columbia. These factors, taken together, suggest that, at least as of today, NG is not yet prepared to deal with sunken oil in the event there were a spill of dilbit into a British Columbia watercourse. By itself this is a cause for serious concern in relation to the fundamental question in this proceeding, namely whether the JRP should recommend approval of this project. But at the very least, this means that a strong condition must be imposed requiring further research on the behaviour of dilbit.
Spill response only preliminary “All roads are driveable”
The provincial argument says, in italics, that the Northern Gateway’s spill response plans are “only preliminary” and adds Northern Gateway’s plan to provide detail operational plans six months before the beginning of the pipeline operations is not good enough. “It is not possible for NG to assert, nor for the JRP to conclude, that NG will be able to access all those places where a spill may travel, and to respond effectively.”
Despite the challenges to responding to a spill from the pipeline, including the challenge of responding to submerged and sunken oil, NG’s plans for responding to a spill have not yet been developed. NG has committed only to providing its detailed oil spill response plans to the National Energy Board 6 months in advance of operations. In the context of this project, the Province remains very concerned that NG has not yet demonstrated its ability to respond effectively to spills from the pipeline.
When specifically asked “In the absence of that planning…to address the challenges that we’ve been discussing, how is it we are to be confident that Northern Gateway will, in fact, be able to effectively respond to a spill?” NG replied that “There is a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Of particular concern, despite its admission that a spill into a watercourse in a remote location would pose a significant challenge, NG has not yet determined those locations it could access to respond to a spill, including the control points utilized for capturing and recovering oil passing that location. Such access will only be determined, if possible, during detailed planning. At this time, NG also does not know what portion of water bodies would be boat-accessible in the event of a spill. The 2010 Michigan spill, which was the subject of much questioning during the hearing, occurred in a populated area, where there were many potential access locations. This will of course not be the case if a spill were to occur in a remote river in British Columbia.
While NG has prepared a document showing some possible control points that might be used for spill response in the event of a spill in some rivers, NG concedes that its work in this regard is preliminary, and only pertains to some of the control points that would ultimately have to be established. NG helpfully provided additional information to that which was originally filed with respect to the travel distance between pump stations or the terminal and certain potential control points. However, travel times to the control points that have been identified do not take into account mobilization time, and assumes all roads are drivable.
Given the incompleteness of NG’s evidence in this regard, the Province submits that NG cannot currently assert that there would in fact be viable control points where a spill could travel to. In addition, even if accessibility to control points had been fully validated, in order for NG to assert that it could respond effectively to a spill, it would also have to know the means by which personnel and equipment would gain access to respond to oil that had come ashore or sunken to the sediment. Given the preliminary nature of the evidence presented by NG, this is of course not known.
The Province is very concerned that, in the event of a spill, some places where a spill could reach will be inaccessible, and therefore not amenable to spill recovery actions. While NG states that it will be able to access control points at any location along the pipeline, it has simply not provided the evidence in this proceeding to substantiate this assertion. The Province submits that, as of today, it is not possible for NG to assert, nor for the JRP to conclude, that NG will be able to access all those places where a spill may travel, and to respond effectively.
In addition to access, there are a number of other challenges to operating in British
Columbia in respect of which NG has completed only very preliminary work.
• The pipeline could be covered by heavy snow at different times of the year; NG states that it will have to review alternative methods of access to deal with this, but has presented no specific evidence on how this challenge will be addressed.
• NG has not yet developed specific plans about how it would deal with oil recovered from a spill, and has not yet determined disposal locations.
• NG has not yet determined the location or the contents of the equipment caches to be used to respond to spills.
• It has not determined year-round access to the pipeline, which will be evaluated as part of detailed planning.
Kitimat River response
The province takes a harsh look at Northern Gateway’s plan for a response on the Upper Kitimat River and Hunter Creek.
Similarly, the Province is concerned about the ability of NG to respond to a spill in the Upper Kitimat Valley. When asked by the Douglas Channel Watch
“…in the context of the Upper Kitimat Valley, does this mean because of the steepness of the terrain and limited road access to the river, that containment at some locations at the source will be impossible, and the majority of your efforts will be at the first accessible locations downstream?”
NG was only able to reply that:
“again it depends on the specific conditions. But as Dr. Taylor indicated, in the development of the response plans we would need to look at various scenarios, various times of year, develop plans so that it would identify the appropriate response locations at those times.”
NG’s targeted spill response time of 6-12 hours needs to be set against the reality that, in the case of a watercourse spill, oil may travel many kilometres downstream while NG is still mobilizing. In this proceeding NG has provided considerable information with respect to how far and fast oil can travel in a watercourse. For example, with a spill into Hunter Creek, NG has stated:
Based on water velocities, a release at this location could reach the Kitimat River estuary 60 km downstream within four to ten hours, depending on river discharge.
Dr. Horn has indicated that these figures are very conservative, and that the actual times to reach Kitimat would be a longer period. However, no other definitive evidence on these times was presented by NG.
Enbridge doesn’t learn from its mistakes
The provincial argument then goes on to say, again in italics, Enbridge does not follow procedures or learn from mistakes and concludes “while NG asserts that its spill detection systems will be world-class, it has not yet chosen to adopt spill detection technologies that would achieve that objective.”
The provincial argument goes over Enbridge’s spill record in detail, including the Marshall, Michigan spill which was harshly criticized by the US National Transportation Safety Board.
Concerns about NG’s inability to respond to a spill are magnified by Enbridge’s conduct with respect to the spill which took place in Michigan. NG concedes that, in that case, there were procedures in place that were not followed. NG asserts that it now has in place a number of “golden rules”, including that whenever there is a doubt with respect to whether the spill detection system has detected a leak, the pipeline must be shut down. However, NG concedes that this rule was in place before the Michigan spill; it self-evidently was not followed. In fact, the rule under which Enbridge would shut down its pipeline system within 10 minutes of an abnormal occurrence which could be immediately analyzed was put into place following a spill in 1991. At that time, similar commitments were made indicating that procedures would change and that a spill of that nature wouldn’t take place again….
despite the fact that the relevant technologies had been in existence for some
10 years, and despite the existence of crack-related failures that led to the development of such technologies, Enbridge had failed to put in place a program that would have detected the Marshall spill
The province wraps up the response saying by telling the JRP:
In short, if NG is relying on its ability to respond effectively to a spill for a positive recommendation from the JRP, then it must show that it will in fact have that ability. The Province submits that NG has not shown that ability in this proceeding.
The Province submits that requiring NG to show now that it will in fact have the ability to respond effectively to a spill is particularly important because there will be no subsequent public process in which that ability can be probed and tested. NG has pointed out that its oil spill response plans will be provided to the NEB for review, and has committed to a third party audit of its plans. However, it also acknowledges that there will be no means by which those plans could be tested through a public process.
On the pipeline project, BC concludes
The Province submits that the evidence on the record does not support NG’s contention that it will have a world-class spill response capability in place. The challenges posed by the pipeline route, the nature of the product being shipped, the conceptual nature of its plans to date and Enbridge’s track record mean that the Province is not able to support the project’s approval at this time. The Province submits that its concerns in this regard should be seriously considered by the JRP as it considers the recommendation it will be making to the federal government.
“There is no need to scare people,” about tankers, Transport Minister Denis Lebel told the House of Commons on Thursday, March 28.
Lebel was answering a question from Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen.
The official transcript from Hansard records Cullen’s question about the federal government’s unexpected declaration that Kitimat would become a public port.
Mr. Speaker, last week, in their panic to ram a bitumen pipeline through to British Columbia’s north coast, the Conservatives simply decreed that they would take over the Port of Kitimat. Rather than picking up the phone and talking with the local council or the Haisla Nation, the government parachuted in a minister from Toronto to make the announcement. There was no consultation, no respect, just bulldozers.
We see again the fundamental disrespect the government has for first nations here today. Now the Conservatives are scrambling, saying that they will consult after they have clearly made up their minds, the exact approach they take on the pipeline. When will the government start to respect the people of the northwest?
Lebel replied in French, and as is usual in Question Period did not answer Cullen’s question.
Mr. Speaker, last week we announced the creation of an expert panel. These people will work together to think of how to improve things.
We have a very good system for dealing with oil spills. We will continue to move forward and keep everyone safe.
Canada has not had any major oil spills in its history. There is no need to scare people. We will continue to work on measures.
I thank all members of the panel led by Mr. Houston for their ability to find solutions.
This Youtube video shows Cullen’s question and Lebel’s response. The live translation is a little different, but the effect is the same.
Cullen later issued a news release commenting
Cullen’s question came on the heels of reports that neither Kitimat Council nor the Haisla Nation were consulted in advance of the federal government’s decision to take over the Kitimat port. The move represents an apparent ongoing tendency by the Conservative federal government to offer consultation with communities and First Nations, but only after they’ve already made their decision.
Cullen later reflected that, regardless of one’s position on the Northern Gateway pipeline, open and prior consultation is crucial to fostering good governance and the trust of the general public. By contrast, said Cullen, “the Conservatives are writing the book on how to ignore communities and First Nations, and damage public faith. This is just the latest chapter.”
a large, relatively shallow lake in south-central Quebec, Canada, in the Laurentian Highlands. It is situated 206 kilometres north of the Saint Lawrence River, into which it drains via the Saguenay River. It covers an area of 1,053 km2 (407 sq mi), and is 63.1 m (207 ft) at its deepest point.
It is unlikely there will ever be a Very Large Crude Carrier on Lac St. Jean.
In its earliest statements the Harper Conservatives were careful to say that there had never been a tanker disaster on the west coast. Now, in its Orwellian fashion, the government is now saying “Canada has not had any major oil spills in its history.”
That statement, of course, ignores the Arrow tanker disaster off Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia on February 4, 1970, which the Environment Canada website, (as of April 1, 2013), describes this way
the calamity had reached catastrophic proportions. Out of the 375 statute miles of shoreline in the Bay area, 190 miles had been contaminated in varying degrees.
When the story of the Stephen Harper government is told, historians will say that the week of March 17 to 23, 2013, is remembered, not for the release of a lacklustre federal budget, but for day after day of political blunders that undermined Harper’s goal of making a Canada what the Conservatives call a resource superpower.
It was a week where spin overcame substance and spun out of control.
The Conservative government’s aim was, apparently, to increase support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project with a spin campaign aimed at moving the middle ground in British Columbia from anti-project to pro-project and at the same time launching a divide and conquer strategy aimed at BC and Alberta First Nations.
It all backfired. If on Monday, March 17, 2013, the troubled and controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project was on the sick list, by Friday, March 23, the Enbridge pipeline and tanker scheme was added to the Do Not Resuscitate list, all thanks to political arrogance, blindfolded spin and bureaucratic incompetence. The standard boogeymen for conservative media in Canada (who always add the same sentence to their stories on the Northern Gateway) “First Nations and environmentalists who oppose the project” had nothing to do with it.
Stephen Harper has tight control of his party and the government, and in this case the billion bucks stop at the Prime Minister’s Office. He has only himself to blame.
All of this happened on the northern coast of British Columbia, far out of range of the radar of the national media and the Ottawa pundit class (most of whom, it must be admitted, were locked up in an old railway station in the nation’s capital, trying interpret Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s spreadsheets).
The story begins early on that Monday morning, at my home base in Kitimat, BC, the proposed terminal for Northern Gateway, when a news release pops into my e-mail box, advising that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver would be in nearby Terrace early on Tuesday morning for an announcement and photo op.
I started making calls, trying to find out if anyone in Kitimat knew about Oliver’s visit to Terrace and if the minister planned to come to Kitimat.
Visitors to Kitimat
I made those calls because in the past two years, Kitimat has seen a parade of visitors checking out the town and the port’s industrial and transportation potential. The visitors range from members of the BC provincial Liberal cabinet to the staff of the Chinese consulate in Vancouver to top executives of some of the world’s major transnational corporations (and not just in the energy sector). Most of these visits, which usually include meetings with the District of Kitimat Council and District senior staff as well as separate meetings with the Council of the Haisla Nation, are usually considered confidential. There are no photo ops or news conferences. If the news of a visit is made public, (not all are), those visits are usually noted, after the fact, by Mayor Joanne Monaghan at the next public council meeting.
It was quickly clear from my calls that no one in an official capacity in Kitimat knew that, by the next morning, Oliver would be Terrace, 60 kilometres up Highway 37. No meetings in Kitimat, on or off the record, were scheduled with the Minister of Natural Resources who has been talking about Kitimat ever since he was appointed to the Harper cabinet.
I was skeptical about that afternoon’s announcement/photo op in Vancouver by Transport Minister Denis Lebel and Oliver about the “world class” tanker monitoring.
After all, there had been Canadian Coast Guard cutbacks on the northwest coast even before Stephen Harper got his majority government. The inadequacy of oil spill response on the British Columbia coast had been condemned both by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser and in the United States Senate. The government stubbornly closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It’s proposing that ocean traffic control for the Port of Vancouver be done remotely from Victoria, with fixed cameras dotted around the harbour. Leaving controllers in Vancouver would, of course, be the best solution, but they must be sacrificed (along with any ship that get’s into trouble in the future, on the altar of a balanced budget).
The part of the announcement that said there would be increased air surveillance is nothing more than a joke (or spin intended just for the Conservative base in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Toronto suburbs,that is not anyone familiar with BC coastal waters). Currently the Transport Canada surveillance aircraft are used on the coasts to look for vessels that are illegally dumping bilge or oil off shore. As CBC’s Paul Hunter reported in 2010, Transport Canada aircraft were used after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster to map where the oil was going after it erupted from the Deepwater Horizon.
Given the stormy weather on the west coast (when Coast Guard radio frequently warns of “hurricane force winds”) it is highly unlikely that the surveillance aircraft would even be flying in the conditions that could cause a major tanker disaster. Aerial surveillance, even in good weather, will never prevent a tanker disaster caused by human error.
I got my first chance to look at the Transport Canada website in late afternoon and that’s when a seemingly innocuous section made me sit up and say “what is going on?” (I actually said something much stronger).
Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.
(Transport Canada actually spelled the name wrong—it has since been fixed—as you can see in this screen grab).
Kitimat has been one of the few private ports in Canada since the Alcan smelter was built and the town founded 60 years ago (the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the District of Kitimat is March 31, 2013).
The reasons for the designation of Kitimat as a private port go back to a complicated deal between the province of British Columbia and Alcan in the late 1940s as the two were negotiating about electrical power, the aluminum smelter, the building of the town and the harbour.
For 60 years, Alcan, later Rio Tinto Alcan, built, paid for and operated the port as a private sector venture. For a time, additional docks were also operated by Eurocan and Methanex. After Eurocan closed its Kitimat operation that dock was purchased by the parent company Rio Tinto. The Methanex dock was purchased by Royal Dutch Shell last year for its proposed LNG operation.
The announcement that Kitimat was to become a public port was also something that the national media would not recognize as significant unless they are familiar with the history of the port. That history is known only to current and former residents of Kitimat and managers at Rio Tinto Alcan.
The port announcement came so much out of left field; so to speak, that I had doubts it was accurate. In other words, I couldn’t believe it. I went to Monday evening’s meeting of District of Kitimat Council and at the break between the open and in-camera sessions, I asked council members if they had heard about Kitimat being redesignated a public port. The members of the district council were as surprised as I had been.
Back from the council meeting, I checked the Transport Canada news release and backgrounders. I also checked the online version of Bill C-57, the enabling act for the changes announced earlier that day. There was no mention of Kitimat in Bill C-57.
Tuesday morning I drove to Terrace for Joe Oliver’s 9 am photo op and the announcement at Northwest Community College (NWCC) that the government had appointed Douglas Eyford as a special envoy to First Nations for energy projects, an attempt on the surface to try and get First Nations onside for the pipeline projects, an appointment seen by some First Nations leaders as an attempt by the Harper government to divide and conquer.
As an on site reporter, I got to ask Oliver two questions before the news conference went to the national media on the phones.
In answer to my first question, Oliver confirmed that the federal government had decided to make Kitimat a public port, saying in his first sentence: “What the purpose is to make sure that the absolute highest standards of marine safety apply in the port of Kitimat.” He then returned to message track saying, “we have as I announced yesterday and I had spoken about before at the port of Vancouver we have an extremely robust marine safety regime in place but we want to make sure that as resource development continues and as technology improves, we are at the world class level. As I also mentioned there has never been off the coast of British Columbia a major tanker spill and we want to keep that perfect record.”
For my second question, I asked Oliver if he planned to visit Kitimat.
He replied. “Not in this particular visit, I have to get back [to Ottawa] There’s a budget coming and I have to be in the House for that but I certainly expect to be going up there.”
The question may not have registered with the national media on the conference call. For the local reporters and leaders in the room at Waap Galts’ap, the long house at Terrace’s Northwest Community College, everyone knew that Kitimat had been snubbed.
Back in Kitimat, I sent an e-mail to Colleen Nyce, the local spokesperson for Rio Tinto Alcan noting that Joe Oliver had confirmed that the federal government intended to make the RTA-run port a public port. I asked if RTA had been consulted and if the company had any comment.
Nyce replied that she was not aware of the announcement and promised to “look into this on our end.” I am now told by sources that it is believed that my inquiry to Nyce was the first time Rio Tinto Alcan, one of Canada’s biggest resource companies, had heard that the federal government was taking over its port.
The next day, Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan told local TV news on CFTK the Kitimat community was never consulted about the decision and she added that she still hadn’t been able to get anyone with the federal government to tell her more about the plan.
Who pays for the navigation aids?
Meanwhile, new questions were being raised in Kitimat about two other parts of the Monday announcement.
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.
Since its first public meeting in Kitimat, in documents filed with the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, in public statements and advertising, Enbridge has been saying for at least the past four years that the company would pay for all the needed upgrades to aids to navigation on Douglas Channel, Wright Sound and other areas for its tanker traffic. It is estimated that those navigation upgrades would cost millions of dollars.
Now days before a federal budget that Jim Flaherty had already telegraphed as emphasizing restraint, it appeared that the Harper government, in its desperation to get approval for energy exports, was going to take over funding for the navigation upgrades from the private sector and hand the bill to the Canadian taxpayer.
RTA not consulted
On Thursday morning, I received an e-mail from Colleen Nyce with a Rio Tinto Alcan statement, noting:
This announcement was not discussed with Rio Tinto Alcan in advance. We are endeavoring to have meetings with the federal government to gain clarity on this announcement as it specifically relates to our operations in Kitimat.
On Friday morning, Mayor Monaghan told Andrew Kurjata on CBC’s Daybreak North that she had had at that time no response to phone calls and e-mails asking for clarification of the announcement. Monaghan also told CBC that Kitimat’s development officer Rose Klukas had tried to “get an audience with minister and had been unable to.” (One reason may be that Oliver’s staff was busy. They ordered NWCC staff to rearrange the usual layout of the chairs at Waap Galts’ap, the long house, to get a better background for the TV cameras for Oliver’s statement).
Monaghan told Kurjata, “I feel like it’s a slap in the face because we’re always being told that we’re the instrument for the whole world right now because Kitimat is supposed to be the capital of the economy right now. So I thought we’d have a little more clout by now and they’d at least tell us they were going to do this. There was absolutely no consultation whatsoever.”
By Friday afternoon, five days after the announcement, Transport Canada officials finally returned the calls from Mayor Monaghan and Rose Klukas promising to consult Kitimat officials in the future.
Monaghan said that Transport Canada told her that it would take at least one year because the change from a private port to a public port requires a change in legislation.
Transport Canada is now promising “extensive public and stakeholder consultation will occur before the legislation is changed,” the mayor was told.
On this Mayor Monaghan commented, “It seems to me that now they want to do consultation….sort of like closing the barn door after all of the cows got out!”
There are a tiny handful of people in Kitimat openly in favour of the Northern Gateway project. A significant minority are on the fence and some perhaps leaning toward acceptance of the project. There is strong opposition and many with a wait and see attitude. (Those in favour will usually only speak on background, and then when you talk to them most of those “in favour” have lists of conditions. If BC Premier Christy Clark has five conditions, many of these people have a dozen or more).
Oliver was speaking in Terrace, 60 kilometres from Kitimat. It is about a 40 to 45 minute drive to Kitimat over a beautiful stretch of highway, with views of lakes, rivers and mountains.
Scenic Highway 37 is the route to the main location not only for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline but three liquefied natural gas projects, not to mention David Black’s proposed refinery half way between Terrace and Kitimat.
Why wouldn’t Kitimat be a must stop on the schedule for the Minister of Natural Resources? In Terrace, Oliver declared that Kitimat was to become a public port, run by the federal government. Although technically that would be the responsibility of Denis Lebel, the Minister of Transport, one has to wonder why the Minister of Natural Resources would not want to see the port that is supposedly vital to Canada’s economy? You have to ask why he didn’t want to meet the representatives of the Haisla Nation, the staff and council of the District of Kitimat and local business leaders?
Oliver has been going across Canada, the United States and to foreign countries promoting pipelines and tanker traffic, pipelines that would terminate at Kitimat and tankers that would send either bitumen or liquefied natural gas to customers in Asia.
Yet the Minister of Natural Resources is too important, too busy to take a few hours out of his schedule, while he is in the region, to actually visit the town he has been talking about for years.
He told me that he had to be in Ottawa for the budget. Really? The budget is always the finance minister’s show and tell (with a little help from whomever the Prime Minister is at the time). On budget day, Oliver would have been nothing more than a background extra whenever the television cameras “dipped in” on the House of Commons, between stories from reporters and experts who had been in the budget lockup.
According to the time code on my video camera, Oliver’s news conference wrapped at 9:50 a.m., which certainly gave the minister and his staff plenty of time to drive to Kitimat, meet with the representatives of the District, the Haisla Nation and the Chamber of Commerce and still get to Vancouver for a late flight back to Ontario.
On Tuesday, Joe Oliver’s snub pulled the political rug out from under the Northern Gateway supporters and fence sitters in Kitimat. Oliver’s snub showed those few people in Kitimat that if they do go out on a limb to support the Northern Gateway project, the Conservatives would saw off that limb so it can be used as a good background prop for a photo op.
Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers councils have all voted against the Northern Gateway project. Kitimat Council, despite some clear divisions, has maintained a position of absolute neutrality. Kitimat Council will continue to be officially neutral until after the Joint Review report, but this week you could hear the air slowly leaking out of the neutrality balloon.
Oliver may still believe, as he has frequently said, that the only people who oppose Northern Gateway are dangerous radicals paid by foreign foundations.
What he did on Tuesday was to make the opposition to Northern Gateway in Kitimat into an even more solid majority across the political spectrum.
Blunder No 2. Rio Tinto Alcan
It doesn’t do much for the credibility of a minister of natural resources to thoroughly piss off, for no good reason, the world’s second largest mining and smelting conglomerate, Rio Tinto. But that’s just what Joe Oliver did this week.
I am not one to usually have much sympathy with rich, giant, transnational corporations.
But look at this way, over the past 60 years Alcan and now Rio Tinto Alcan have invested millions upon millions of dollars in building and maintaining the Kitimat smelter and the port of Kitimat. RTA is now completing the $3.3 billion Kitimat Modernization Project. Then without notice, or consultation, the Conservative government—the Conservative government—announces it is going to take over RTA’s port operations. What’s more, if what Transport Canada told Mayor Joanne Monaghan is correct, the federal government is going to start charging RTA fees to use the port it has built and operated for 60 years.
Too often RTA’s London headquarters acts like it is still the nineteenth century and the senior executives are like British colonialists dictating to the far reaches of the Empire on what do to do.
No matter what you think of RTA, it boggles the mind, whether you are right wing, left wing or mushy middle, that the federal government simply issues a press release–a press release– with not even a phone call, not even a visit (even to corporate headquarters) saying “Hey RTA, we’re taking over.”
There’s one thing that you can be sure of, Rio Tinto Alcan’s lobbyists are going to be earning their fees in the coming weeks.
(One more point, even if there wasn’t a single pipeline project planned for Kitimat you would think that the Minister of Natural Resources would want to see what is currently the largest and most expensive construction project in Canada, a project that comes under his area of political responsibility).
It took five days, from the time of the minister’s news conference on Monday until Friday afternoon, for officials in Transport Canada to return phone calls from Mayor Joanne Monaghan and Rose Klukas, to explain what was going to happen to the Port of Kitimat.
This week was yet another example of the decay of Canadian democracy under Stephen Harper. Executives from Tokyo to Houston to the City of London quickly return phone calls from the District of Kitimat, after all Kitimat is where the economic action is supposed to be. At the same time, the federal government doesn’t return those calls, it shows that something really is rotten in our state.
Blunder No 5. LNG
There are three liquefied natural gas projects slated for Kitimat harbour, the Chevron-Apache partnership in KM LNG, now under construction at Bish Cove; the Royal Dutch Shell project based on the old Methanex site and the barge based BC LNG partnership that will work out of North Cove.
None of these projects have had the final go ahead from the respective company board of directors. So has the federal government thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into these projects? Will making Kitimat a public port to promote Enbridge, help or hinder the LNG projects? Did the Ministry of Natural Resources even consider the LNG projects when they made the decision along with Transport Canada to take over the port?
And then there’s…..
Kitimat has a marina shortage, especially since RTA closed the Moon Bay Marina. The only one left, the MK Bay Marina, which is straining from overcapacity, is owned by the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District. That means there will be another level of government in any talks and decisions on the future of the Kitimat harbour. There are also the controversial raw log exports from nearby Minette Bay.
Although Transport Canada has promised “extensive public and stakeholder consultation,” one has to wonder how much input will be allowed for the residents of Kitimat and region, especially the guiding and tourism industries as well as recreational boaters. After all, the Harper government is determined to make Kitimat an export port for Alberta and the experience of the past couple of years has shown that people of northwest count for little in that process. Just look at the Northern Gateway Joint Review, which more and more people here say has no credibility.
Big blunder or more of the same?
I’ve listed five big blunders that are the result of the decision by the Harper government to turn Kitimat into a public port.
Are they really blunders or just more of the same policies we’ve seen from Stephen Harper since he became a majority prime minister?
This is a government that has muzzled scientific research and the exchange of scientific ideas. The minister who was in the northwest last week, who has demonized respect for the environment, is now squeezing the words “science” and “environment” anywhere into any message track or speech anyway he can.
That’s just the point. Joe Oliver’s fly-in, fly-out trip to Terrace was not supposed to have any substance. Changing the chairs at the Waap Galts’ap long house showed that it was more important to the Harper government to have some northwest coast wall art behind Joe Oliver for his photo op than it was to engage meaningfully with the northwest, including major corporations, First Nations and local civic and business leaders.
Joe Oliver’s visit to Terrace was an example of government by reality television. The decision to change the private port of Kitimat into a public port was another example of Harper’s government by decree without consulting a single stakeholder. The problem is, of course, that for decades to come, it will be everyone in northwest British Columbia who will be paying for those 30 second sound bites I recorded on Tuesday.
Epilogue: Alcan’s legacy for the socialist Prime Minister, Stephen Harper
If an NDP or Liberal government had done what Harper and Oliver did on Monday, every conservative MP, every conservative pundit, every conservative media outlet in Canada would be hoarse from screaming about the danger from the socialists to the Canadian economy.
That brings us to the legacy left by R. E. Powell who was president of Alcan in the 1940s and 50s as the company was building the Kitimat project.
As Global Mission, the company’s official history, relates, in 1951, Alcan signed an agreement with the British Columbia provincial government, that “called upon the company to risk a huge investment, without any government subsidy or financial backing and without any assured market for its product.”
According to the book, Powell sought to anticipate any future problems, given the tenor of the times, the possible or even likely nationalization of the smelter and the hydro-electric project.
So Powell insisted that the contract signed between Alcan and the province include preliminary clauses acknowledging that Alcan was paying for Kitimat without a single cent from the government:
Whereas the government is unwilling to provide and risk the very large amounts of money required to develop those water powers to produce power for which no market now exists or can be foreseen except through the construction of the facilities for the production of aluminum in the vicinity and….
Whereas the construction of the aluminum plant at or near the site of the said waterpower would accomplish without risk or to the GOVERNMENT the development power, the establishment of a permanent industry and the new of population and….
(Government in all caps in the original)
…the parties hereto agree as follows (the agreement, water licence and land permit)
Powell is quoted in the book as saying:
I asked the political leaders of BC if the government would develop the power and sell the energy to Alcan and they refused. We had to do it ourselves. Someday, perhaps, some politician will try to nationalize that power and grab it for the state. I will be dead and gone but some of you or your successors at Alcan may be here, and I hope the clauses in the agreement, approved by the solemn vote of the BC legislature, will give those future socialists good reason to pause and reflect.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the federal government had very little to do with the Kitimat project. With the declaration that Kitimat will be a public port, the federal government comes to the party 60 years late. But one has to wonder if the late Alcan president, R.E. Powell, ever considered that the “future socialists” he hoped would “pause and reflect” would be members of Canada’s Conservative party, Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Denis Lebel?
Coastal First Nations have launched a commercial aimed at the British Columbia electorate, using the call from the Exxon Valedez to US Coast Guard Valdez traffic control saying that the tanker had run aground.
The commercial makes the connection between the Exxon Valdez disaster and the possibility of a tanker disaster on the British Columbia coast if the Enbridge Northern Gateway project goes ahead.
CHICAGO (March 14, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued an administrative order that requires Enbridge to do additional dredging in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River to clean up oil from the company’s July 2010 pipeline spill. EPA’s order requires dredging in sections of the river above Ceresco Dam, upstream of Battle Creek, and in the Morrow Lake Delta.
EPA has repeatedly documented the presence of recoverable submerged oil in the sections of the river identified in the order and has determined that submerged oil in these areas can be recovered by dredging. The dredging activity required by EPA’s order will prevent submerged oil from migrating to downstream areas where it will be more difficult or impossible to recover.
Enbridge has five days to respond to the order and 15 days to provide EPA with a work plan. Dredging is anticipated to begin this spring and is not expected to result in closures of the river. EPA’s order also requires Enbridge to maintain sediment traps throughout the river to capture oil outside the dredge areas.
On July 26, 2010, Enbridge reported that a 30-inch oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Heavy rains caused the spilled oil to travel 35 miles downstream before it was contained.
Premier Christy Clark announced her controversial five conditions for pipeline development in BC in July 2012. Clark’s announcement was aimed both at the Northern Gateway Pipeline which would have its terminal in Kitimat, and the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion which has its terminal in Vancouver.
It is not clear how long the web page has been up, but the call for input from the public has received little, if any, publicity. The deadline for public submissions is February 15, 2013.
(Northwest Coast Energy News was alerted to the story by a Kitimat-based hiking club)
A separate call for academic papers had a deadline of January 25. The province plans a conference on oil spill response in Vancouver from March 25 to March 27. The website says”
As part of British Columbia’s commitment to a world leading preparedness and response regime for land based spills, it is hosting a symposium March 25-27, 2013 in Vancouver, BC. Due to the anticipated high interest in the symposium, attendance is by invitation only.
One question would be if invitation only is designed to exclude activist groups who may wish to participate or demonstrate. The Northern Gateway Joint Review panel banned public input at hearings in Vancouver and Victoria earlier this year to try, not always successfully, to head off demonstrations. The webpage says:
In keeping with the established polluter-pay principle, and recognizing the increase in development activities across the province, the Ministry of Environment (the ministry) is reviewing industry funded options for strengthening BC’s spill preparedness and response policies and capacity. Land based spill refers to any spill impacting the terrestrial environment, including coastal shorelines, regardless of the source.
This review addresses three aspects of land based spill preparedness and response: World leading regime for land based spill preparedness and response
Effective and efficient rules for restoration of the environment following a spill
Effective government oversight and coordination of industry spill response The ministry has developed a policy intentions paper for consultation (intentions paper) on the three aspects of the province’s land based spill preparedness and response regime under consideration.
The purpose of this intentions paper is to describe the ministry’s proposed policy direction and seek input on enhancing spill preparedness and response in BC. The intentions paper is a discussion document and your feedback will influence the policy approach.
Although the call for input is on the ministry website, the contact is a management consulting firm C. Rankin & Associates.
At the District of Kitimat Council meeting on Monday, October 1, as part of Mayor Joanne Monaghan’s regular “good news” briefing, she told council that the Kitimat LNG project continues to “progress positively.” The news from Calgary on Tuesday, however, was not as promising.
Both Bloomberg News and the Calgary Herald reported that Apache, which owns 40 per cent of the KM LNG partnership is worried about a recent decision by a rival gas company to sell natural gas to world markets at low North American prices rather than, as been customary up until now, as percentage of the world oil price. That differential gives the North American gas companies a profit in Asia and it is that profit difference that makes Kitimat attractive for LNG projects.
At the council meeting, Monaghan reported, quoting Apache’s Apache’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs Natalie Poole-Moffatt, as saying that Kitimat LNG will be opening a full time community office in downtown Kitimat near the City Centre mall in the near future. Apache says renovations are nearly complete and they will be holding an open house in the near future.
Monaghan said that work on the Kitimat LNG site at Bish Cove continues with blasting to create proper elevation, crushing and sorting of rock and constructing an access route to the forest service road. This summer work began on the two year $25 million upgrades to the old forest service road “which will improve conditions on the road.”
However, in Calgary, the Herald quoted KM LNG vice-president David Calvert as saying “things are going so well that it has been decided to risk spending on clearing ground before completion of the front end engineering and development study and final investment decision.”
But according to several media reports, Calvert told an Energy Roundtable in Calgary on Tuesday that a final go-ahead for Kitimat LNG is not a done deal. the Herald quoted Calvert as saying: “We remain convinced that oil-linked pricing is critical to the viability of our Canadian LNG industry.”
Bloomberg reported that a recent deal by Cheniere Energy Inc. to sell liquefied natural gas based on North American pricing (also known as Henry Hub pricing) means that it is difficult for Apache to find Asian customers to sign the long term LNG contracts needed to make the Kitimat project viable. (Asian LNG prices are based on the “Japan Customs Cleared Price” set by the Japanese government as a percentage of the price of crude oil).
Bloomberg quoted Calvert as saying: “It created quite a ripple through the marketplace,” and Bloomberg said, the Cheniere deal has created “unrealistic expectations.”
Cheniere is less sensitive to prices given its role as a middleman, while Apache, Encana and EOG are producers, for whom the price is very important. One advantage of Kitimat is its west coast location, but that is only a minor cost advantage over Gulf Coast facilities.
The clock is ticking on Kitimat. It sounds like Asian buyers are sitting on the sidelines waiting for lower prices. Right now the U.S. government is sitting on future LNG approvals pending the release of a study around year-end. If the U.S. approves the pending applications, a proverbial flood of LNG will come to market with Henry Hub-based pricing. At that point Kitimat’s owners will be in a tough spot. Kitimat is vital to B.C., but the economics might not work.
In a report to District of Kitimat Council, Apache’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, Natalie Poole-Moffatt, also reported that on September 19, an oil leak was spotted on a piece of heavy equipment at Bish Cove. The report says;
WestCoast Marine was notified and booms were deployed as a preemptive measure in Bish Cove, no machine oil has migrated to Bish Cove. Environmental crews are on site executing a remediation plan. Both the [BC] Provincial Emergency PLan (PEP) and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada were notified of the incident.
The piece of equipment is currently being repaired and will undergo operational tests to ensure the equipment can function without further concern. Environmental staff will remain on the site 24/7 until remediation is complete.
Following the Exxon Valdez disaster, the passing of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) led to the requirement to replace single hull petroleum tankers with double hull tank vessels sailing in U.S. waters. This requirement was soon adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and became a worldwide regulation. This means that, today, tank vessels worldwide are carrying thousands of extra tons of steel in order to meet the double hull requirements.
Though these double hulls reduce the threat of oil pollution as a result of grounding, they significantly increase the amount of energy needed to propel a vessel and increase the amount of air pollution into the atmosphere. As a result, the maritime industry’s carbon footprint and criteria pollutant emissions are increased.
In addition to the need to burn more fuel, it is acknowledged that double hulls can cause several other problems which will be detailed in this study.
Here in Canada, Enbridge Northern Gateway and its supporters, in briefings on maritime and tanker safety on the west coast of British Columbia, have always said that the changes following the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound and the subsequent US Oil Pollution Act as almost guaranteeing that such a disaster could not happen again.
Now it appears that some people in the U.S. Department of Transportation may be worried that increased use of double-hulled tankers will cost too much. There’s also the apparent question of balancing the carbon footprint of increased emissions from tankers with the danger from a hydrocarbon spill.
In July last year, the IMO adopted binding regulations to limit the expected gas emissions increase by reducing fuel consumption of ships by as much as 15 million tonnes in 2020, a 14 per cent reduction, and by 2050, by as much as 1,013 million tonnes. This will lead to savings in fuel costs for the shipping industry of up to US$200 billion a year, says the IMO.
Black says that the US agency seems “to suggest by abandoning the additional weight of double hulls the savings would increase and pollution be cut further, adding “On the other hand, since the introduction of double hulls, pollution from major oil spills has been reduced to practically zero.”
The National story says even the tanker industry itself is worried about the move, quoting the the international tanker owners’ organization.
“We have noted reports about Marad’s intended study on tanker double hulls but, except for what we gather from press articles, we have little knowledge on the reasoning behind this,” said Bill Box, Intertanko’s senior manager for external relations.
“From our members’ experience, double-hull designs have evolved into safe and reliable ships with an excellent safety and pollution prevention record. We might provide comments when such a study would be released by Marad.”
The requirements for the double-hull study, as posted by the US government are:
1. The Contractor shall conduct an assessment of the history in the evolvement of “The Double Hull Rules”.
2. The Contractor shall conduct the assessment of any rules that are being proposed in bodies such as the IMO, U.S. Congress and other such bodies’ worldwide as they relate to additional hulls for environmental reasons.
3. The Contractor shall assess all the relevant safety issues related to double hulls for each class of vessel. E.g. Double bottoms are difficult and expensive to maintain and can result in corrosion problems. Unchecked corrosion in older double hull vessels can lead to cargo leakage into a double bottom and the buildup of dangerous vapor which could cause an explosion under certain conditions. The Contractor will obtain data from appropriate organizations which details the issues in double bottoms on older vessels including cracking, leakage, and the potential for vapor buildup.
4. The contractor shall conduct a complete economic study of the consequences of Double Hulls. E.g. they significantly add to the construction cost of vessels. They result in the loss of cargo space which also adds to the carbon footprint since an additional vessel(s) is needed to carry the same cargo tonnage.
5. The contractor shall assess the complete consequences of the carbon footprint of designing, constructing, maintaining and operating vessels with double hulls. E.g. Apart from the extra propulsive forces and fuel needed, the carbon footprint of double hull maintenance is substantially increased.
6. The Contractor shall prepare a report on the results of the project. The report shall be grammatically correct and must be professionally written to a high level of competence in the English language. The report must clearly specify the safety, economic and environmental issues details above.