Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Skeena MLA notes concerns over delays in British Columbia spill response protection plan in Legislature

The stalled status of the construction of oil spill response bases on
Vancouver Island was the theme of Monday afternoon's discussion in the
British Columbia Legislature

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross took note of the current pause when it comes to the roll out of the Federal/Provincial plans for an emergency spill response program in the province, a project which seems to have become a bit of a hostage to the ongoing differences of opinion between British Columbia and the Federal government on issues related to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Monday afternoon, MLA Ross joined in on the debate over the delays of the Spill Response bases planned for Vancouver Island and the plans for protection of the B.C. Coast.

"Thanks to the Premier for the reference to the work that my band did in relation to crude oil. If it wasn't for the work of our band, the ocean protection plan wouldn't have existed in the first place. So please, thank my band council for that. 

 What we do hear is plenty of rhetoric from the Premier and talk about going to court, but let's look at the results on the ground.

Right now, there's a 251-metre crude oil tanker called the Eagle Bay less than five kilometres off the coast of East Sooke Park, and construction has stopped on new spill response bases in Sidney, Becher Bay, Ucluelet, Nanaimo, Richmond and Port Alberni. 

To the Environment Minister: how does the cancellation of the construction on these new spill response bases protect B.C.'s coast?"

In response to the inquiry, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman deflected from any update on the construction timeline issues and offered up the NDP government's thoughts on the Federal-Provincial dispute instead, calling on Mr. Ross's past experience as Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation as part of his observations on the theme.

"When the member opposite was the chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, he understood the importance of not accepting the risk of a spill of diluted bitumen. He may have forgotten his words at the time, but the Premier hasn't, I haven't and British Columbians won't. 

 Does the member for Skeena really think British Columbians believe that we should have a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic — without knowing if we can prevent a spill, without knowing how we can effectively clean it up and without knowing if we can have adequate response times — in order to prevent a private corporation operating under federal jurisdiction from slowing up spending that the federal Transport Minister has assured Canadians and British Columbians should go ahead?

 I think that's a bad bet. It's a bad gamble, and it's one we're not willing to take. We'll do our job. The federal government should do theirs."

The full exchange on the them can be reviewed from the Monday Hansard pages here, starting at just before the 14:20 PM mark.  You can also view the proceedings of the afternoon session from the Legislature's Question Period archive here, at the same time point.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation which was working on six of the spill bases suspended all of its work following the Kinder Morgan announcement of earlier this month, when the pipeline company advised that it was stopping all of its non-essential work on the TransMountain pipeline expansion.

The pause in the development of the spill response elements as part of the Oceans Protection Plan has seen work on the bases for Vancouver Island and the Lower mainland come to a stop on those key projects in recent weeks.

New spill response bases on hold as pipeline paused
Proposed oil spill response base in Nanaimo postponed
Spill response bases put on hold, a consequence of pipeline project halt
Adding up the cost of pulling the plug on Trans Mountain pipeline

Much of the focus of the Ocean Protection plan has been directed south of Prince Rupert, when the Federal government rolled out their ambitious plan for coastal spill defence in 2016, the North Coast for the most part was left off the list of improvements that were released at the time.

For more items of interest from the Legislature see our archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

1 comment:

  1. MLA Ross asked a good question, which Heyman did not answer. The tanker Eagle Bay operates between Port Angeles WA and Valdez AK. Hopefully construction of the spill response bases will resume so that the BC coast is better protected, including from the risks of US oil traffic. The NDP government's position on Kinder Morgan seems to be having serious unintended consequences.