Tofino chamber officially opposes oil pipeline

21 Aug

To appear in the August 26 print edition of the Westerly News

The Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce (TLBCC) is joining the list of opponents to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, which could see oil tankers traveling a route along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

On August 18 the chamber sent a letter to the Joint Review Panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the National Energy Board.

“The Board of Directors of the TLBCC feels that an oil spill is inevitable with the increased tanker traffic on the coast associated with this project,” Don Travers, chamber president, wrote in the letter. “The threat of such a devastating event is simply too great; we cannot jeopardize the biodiversity and marine habitat of our coastal areas.”

The project would see a dual pipeline carrying oil 1,172 kilometres in length and 36 inches in diameter between Kitimat, B.C. and Bruderheim, Alberta. It will also carry 520,000 barrels of petroleum per day, according to its website northerngateway.ca.

“As we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but rather when one will happen,” Travers states, noting that the community is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and therefore has a particular stake in B.C.’s coast.

The tankers transporting the oil will sail past the southern edge of Vancouver Island, according to a map from Enbridge’s website.

Under Enbridge’s marine transport plants one petroleum vessel, known as Very Large Crude Carriers, can carry up to 320,000 deadweight tonnes and be up to 350 metres long and 60 metres wide in size.

A pipeline could be constructed as early as 2011 or 2012.

Currently the pipeline is under CEAA joint review, which is in the first stage of asking for submissions and written input on the process of handling the pipeline-with a September 8 deadline.

“The first process is asking for input on the process of handling the pipeline and we came straight out totally opposed to the project,” Gord Johns, TLBCC executive director, told the Westerly. “It’s an increased threat to businesses here with an increase of traffic of oil tankers.”

He said the TLBCC is also putting pressure on the B.C. Chamber of Commerce to follow suit in opposition because the letter is being forwarded to the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Member of Parliament and the B.C. chamber.

“The board and president feel it’s important to send a message that it puts our community businesses and health at risk,” Johns added.

“We will keep the membership and public up to date and lobby against the pipeline.”
The fears of an oil tank spilling isn’t unfounded, as an incident in 1988 saw an estimated 87,400 litres (5,500 barrels) of Bunker C oil spilled, according to the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s website.

In the early morning of Dec. 23, 1988 about three kilometres off the coast of Washington a Sause Brothers Ocean Towing Company tug rammed and holed its tow, the tanker barge Nestucca, and oil came ashore in patches mainly in Vancouver Island in the southeast to Cape Scott in the north.

“The prevailing winter winds drifted the spilled oil along the scenic West Coast of Vancouver Island in B.C.,” the website states.

Beaches and sensitive shoreline ecosystems were drenched in oil and were damaged, with about 56,000 seabirds killed while crab and shellfish populations including herring spawn areas were affected.

“The opposition against this project is massive,” Johns said, adding that 88 per cent of B.C. is against the project.

On March 23 the B.C. Coastal First Nations (BCCFN), an alliance of nine communities, made headlines when it declared a ban on oil tankers passing through traditional FN territory.

“We will protect ourselves and the interests of future generations with everything we have because one major oil spill on the coast of British Columbia would wipe us out,” Gerald Amos, BCCFN director, said on March 23. “This bountiful and globally significant coastline cannot bear an oil spill. This is where Enbridge hits a wall.”

March 24 marked the 20-year anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The Central Coast Chamber of Commerce came out in June against the Northern Gateway pipeline as well.

Enbridge says the pipeline would benefit the economy and safety is in its best interest.

The company has estimated about 5,500 person-years of on-site employment would be created in the construction phase of the project from Alberta to B.C. and 1,150 long-term jobs to operate the pipelines and marine terminal.

“Total local, provincial and federal government tax revenues during 30 years of operations will be approximately $2.6 billion; this includes about $36 million per year estimated to be paid by Northern Gateway as local property taxes,” Enbridge’s website states.

It also maintains that pipeline leaks are rare and spill prevention is top priority.

“Northern Gateway is committed to ensuring that vessels transporting petroleum and condensate via the Kitimat marine terminal will employ the highest worldwide safety and navigational standards,” according to the website.

The project is expected to participate in a voluntary assessment administered by Transport Canada, called the TERMPOL review.

“This review process evaluates marine terminal operations, vessel routing and other marine safety issues,” according to Enbridge’s website.

“The safe passage of marine vessels will be achieved through a comprehensive strategy that brings together the best people, technology and planning.”

One Response to “Tofino chamber officially opposes oil pipeline”

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  1. Oil Spill News - August 21, 2010

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