A small spill recovery exercise near Kitimat on the Douglas Channel last July.

Panel recommends changes to make oil transport safer on waters

In total 45 recommendations were presented by a panel to the federal government to make oil transport on water safer.

Taking away limits on liability is one of the recommendations from a federal panel on oil spill safety on Canada’s coast.

The federal government set a panel of experts who were appointed to report on oil tanker safety and provide recommendations on what action should be taken

In the Dec. 3 report, A Review of Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime—Setting the Course for the Future, the panel makes a total of 45 recommendations to create a world-class safety system for moving oil via tanker which range from removing the $166 million per-spill liability limit to conducting spill exercises every year to providing additional resources to the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada to improve the spill response system.

While the report notes the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgam pipeline expansion could bring an additional 600 tankers to waters around the province, federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt said the government will not immediately be implementing the recommendations.

“The expert panel had its independence and traveled across the country…Transport Canada officials have the information now, they have to digest it,” she said.

“Tanker safety really is about common sense at the end of the day. We have to protect ourselves and we have to protect our communities.”

Rait said Transport Canada officials will likely be visiting impacted communities to gather feedback, and encouraged anyone with an interest in the subject to view the report and reach their own conclusions.

“It’s a public report, I think the public should go onto the website, read the report and provide feedback.

However, feedback from environmental groups to the report and the recommendations was swift.

“The government cannot legislate safety at the stroke of a pen. The hard work—identifying sensitive resources that need protecting, finding safe places for ships to weather a storm, installing and testing a whole new system of navigation—has simply not been done. To suggest that we can move ahead with massive increases in tanker traffic without these precautions is foolhardy,” said Living Oceans Society executive director Karen Wristen. “The report highlights many areas where we need additional regulation, infrastructure, training and human resources. However, it ignores the essential fact that it will take many years and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to put those essential pieces in place. Meanwhile, regulatory processes are steaming ahead with proposals that could see up to 700 laden supertankers plying B.C. waters each year.”

The Sierra Club of BC also responded to the report, with their campaign director Caitlyn Vernon saying that they agree that improvements are needed for tanker traffic, “however no amount of safety precautions can justify the extreme risk of increasing tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast.”

“A recent study commissioned by the B.C. government showed that effective spill response is impossible much of the time on the B.C. coast.  Even under the best and most accessible of conditions, unlike what would be found in the Great Bear Rainforest on B.C.’s north coast, 10 to 15 per cent clean-up is the industry standard, leaving the rest of the oil behind in the marine ecosystem, poisoning coastal and marine life and the communities that depend upon it,” she continued in a media release.

– Shaun Thomas, The Northern View