The debate over expanding oil pipelines to Coastal B.C. usually comes back to spills.
Can they be prevented? And if not, how much damage will they do? How responsive will they be when government and industry have to clean things up?
The sinking of the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart in the waters off Bella Bella on Oct. 13 doesn’t bode well for B.C.’s ability to deal with a major tanker spill.
The Stewart was loaded with 200,000 litres of diesel and 2,400 litres of lube oil when it went down. Now the wreck of the ship is surrounded by an oily sheen, and shellfish fisheries in nearby channels have been suspended.
There have been several issues with trying to surround the spill with booms, complicated by rough weather.
The Enbridge proposal to build a pipeline to northern B.C. is likely dead, killed off by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s ban on tanker traffic on the North Coast.
But the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through B.C., the Lower Mainland including Langley, and out to Burnaby is still a possibility.
Against objections from First Nations, environmentalists, and local governments the pipeline proponents promise jobs, though primarily in the oil patch.
Yet no matter what, it will mean a massive increase in tankers, estimated to shoot up from five to as many as 34 per month.
On a coastline battered by storms and riddled with rocks and shoals, even the best spill response money can buy may not be adequate. The spill response that is in place now may not be adequate. Looking at how even small spills are dealt with does not inspire confidence for larger ones.