Dear Prime Minister Trudeau
[Letter posted on Mr. Trudeau’s website]
March 24 of this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which spewed 11 million gallons (40 million litres) of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
Exxon Valdez oil spill clean-up costs exceeded $7 billion (according to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited). One million gallons (almost four million litres) of crude oil polluted roughly 1,300 miles (over 2,000 km) of shore line.
Despite application of the most advanced technology available, only approximately eight per cent of the oil was recovered. There is still over 100 tonnes of oil remaining in the area.
To date the spill caused more than $300 million of economic harm to more than 32,000 people whose livelihoods depended on commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism. Two years following the spill, the economic losses to recreational fishing were estimated to be $31 million.
The death toll of wildlife is estimated at hundreds of thousands seabirds, sea and river otters, harbor seals, and bald eagles; population of killer whales that swam through the affected parts of the Prince William Sound suffered losses of 40 per cent in the year after this disaster (22 Orcas died immediately after the spill), plus billions of salmon and herring eggs were destroyed according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In 1991, Exxon reached a civil settlement with the U.S. government and the State of Alaska in which it agreed to pay over $5 billion in various payments (where the biggest chunk of the money were punitive damages) however after many years of appeals to the Supreme Court of Appeals, the punitive damages were reduced from $5 billion to $2.5 billion and then in 2008 to just over $500 million.
“Hopes of fishermen throughout Washington and Alaska were defeated Wednesday when the Supreme Court slashed the amount of punitive damages that Exxon must pay for the epic Exxon Valdez oil spill nearly two decades ago”: Seattle Times, 2008.
Currently ExxonMobil (after the merger in 1999 of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co and Exxon) is the world’s 10th largest company by revenue. And yet ExxonMobil is still fighting the claims.
This is why thousand of British Columbians are against the Kinder Morgan (KM) oil pipeline; we don’t stand any chance against the big corporations which want to exploit our land, our clean water and our clean air.
Our province is not for you, Prime Minister Trudeau, to experiment with our pristine B.C. environment; our greatest resource, by approving the KM pipeline (far from your native Ottawa) for the “national interest.”
When the new KM oil pipeline is built oil traffic in Vancouver Harbour will increase from five tankers per month to 34, (almost 700 per cent increase!).
With that much traffic increase the question is not if the oil spill occurs, but when? It’s Statistics 101.
Consider this, once the oil is loaded onto tankers, Kinder Morgan’s liability ends.
Any oil spill would mean going after internationally registered shipping firms which would be almost impossible to attain with lengthy litigation dragging indefinitely. Many of plaintiffs of Exxon settlement have not been paid yet, 25 years after the spill.
Consequently we, the taxpayers, would be left to pay for the cleanup of the spill.
I hold a degree in Exploratory Geology (Natural Resources), and I used to work in Calgary for big gas and oil companies.
Corporations have one main priority – to make their shareholders lots of money and the easiest way to realize this is to make some shortcuts on maintenance and safety.
Any oil spill will represent a tragedy and have a catastrophic impact to our environment, tourism and fishing industries as well as to any spin-off jobs of these industries, on our West Coast.
Please Mr. Trudeau, re-consider your decision for the sake of the future of this great country.
Ann Parker, Langley