Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC 'woefully unprepared' for more pipelines, tankers- Open letter

Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC ‘woefully unprepared’ for more pipelines, tankers: Open letter

Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC 'woefully unprepared' for more pipelines, tankers- Open letter
Ocean pollution specialist Dr. Peter Ross displays an oily substance from English Bay (Vancouver Aquarium)

The following is an open letter by Ben West of the group Tanker Free BC to Christy Clark. 

Dear Premier Clark,

In a 2013 interview with Peter Mansbridge, you discussed Canada’s inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future should new pipelines be approved. “We are woefully under-resourced,” you said.

In that same year your government rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project in part because of concerns around oil spills. “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 then B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake in a May 31 media release. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

On April 9th, 2015 a oil spill took place in the Vancouver Harbour. City of Vancouver staff were not even informed until the next morning and later that day it was revealed that 6 hours went by before booms were put in place. Oil has washed up on the beaches of Stanley Park, Jericho Beach and Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver among other places. No signs were put up on beaches to warn residents and visitors. At this time it is still unknown exactly how much oil was spilled or even by whom. The apparent lack of coordination seems to prove your point from 2013, we clearly are “woefully unprepared”.

To make things worse we now know that the recently closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station could have had booms in the water within six minutes, as opposed to six hours. Next month the Vancouver Coast Guard MCTS centre that regulates shipping movements in Vancouver Harbour is scheduled to close. These are our marine traffic controllers?!?

There are also plans to close the Regional Marine Information Centre (RMIC).The RMIC notifies responders, government agencies such as Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Environmental Response and others so a proper response can be mobilized.

The Harper Conservatives will CLOSE this notification centre on May 6, 2015 as part of the larger cuts to the west coast marine safety network. The Coast Guard will also cease providing anchorage assistance to ships, including tankers when the MCTS centre closes and moved to Victoria next month. This is strongly opposed by BC Coast Pilots and Port Metro Vancouver.

Ottawa hasn’t developed or implemented any replacement system for the dissemination of these pollution reports.

Yet your government continues to allow the Harper Government to call the shots when it comes to decisions about pipelines that would lead to massive increases in tanker and other vessel traffic in BC.

Please make this oil spill incident in our harbour the last straw. Please do as municipal leaders from across the province have requested via a resolution at the Union of BC Municipalities and withdraw BC from the National Energy Boards process regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project. And please formally withdraw from the “equivalency agreement” with the Federal Government that puts the environmental assessment and public consultation process under their control.

These are clearly not world class safety standards. Please stand up for the BC coast and do not allow the discussion of increased tanker traffic to continue until the current safety issues are addressed.


5 thoughts on “Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC ‘woefully unprepared’ for more pipelines, tankers: Open letter

  1. Here is a link to what will become problematic for future spills when they occur, the Harper government is CLOSING the centre that alerts other agencies to spills.

    The Harper government is closing 3 Coast Guard MCTS centres in BC this year. The Coast Guard has also said new “technology and communications system is working fabulously” however, there are major outages and problems with the “new technology” that will see the Coast Guard Communications centres in Ucluelet close on April 21st, Vancouver May 6th and Comox next spring/winter.

    The Coast Guard under MAJOR budget pressures from the Harper government, tore out the old equipment in Prince Rupert before the new system was tested and fully operational, leaving a vast area of the Haida Gwaii offshore water unprotected by distress monitoring services. Vital weather information was unavailable for weeks and officers are now required to resort to manual recording of weather, which was to be eliminated. This is taking away from monitoring ship monitoring and safety of the waterway.

    The alerting centre in Vancouver, that started the notification process in the English Bay spill is closing on May 6th and those offcers being laid off. There is no replacement system in place to replace these officers and Ottawa is still trying to cobble some kind of system.

    Bottom line is, the Harper government has GUTTED front line Coast Guard boots on the ground, front line officers, while saying they have invested unprecedented amounts in Coast Guard. The ships, the technology and infrastructure may seem good on paper, but effective May 6th, there will no longer be a single Coast Guard employee in Canada’s largest port, in Vancouver.

  2. Can they really clean up a spill; even if they get on the clean up within a short time, can they actually prevent harm from being caused?

    I find it difficult to believe!

    1. Exxon Valdez
      BP Gulf of Mexico
      Kalamazoo River
      These were all ‘cleaned up’. More like ‘white washed’. This one in English Bay is ‘only’ 3,000 litres (700 gallons!) Heck, I burn that much getting to work!
      Could you, in your wildest imagination, imagine what Wreck Beach or Ambleside would look like with a ‘significant’ spill?
      Better hope its an LNG roast. There wouldn’t be anything to clean up.

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