The District of Kitimat has added its weight behind a proposed bill that will see a ban on the movement of crude oil along the B.C. coastline.
The decision comes after an appeal from environmental watchdog Douglas Channel Watch’s (DCW) Cheryl Brown and Patricia Lange to council for a letter of support to be sent to the federal government for the passing of Bill C-48.
Should it be adopted, the bill would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of crude oil or persistent oil as cargo, from stopping or unloading at ports along B.C’s north coast.
The bill would also prohibit loading more than 12 500 metric tons of those oils as cargo and the transfer of those oils between tankers and ports or marine installations to circumvent the prohibitions.
Finally, the bill also proposes that government be able to impose fines of up to $5 million on companies that violate the terms of the bill.
Lange said DoK’s letter of support for the bill carries more weight than letters from individuals or environmental groups.
“Overall it is the combined outpouring of support for Bill C-48 from First Nations, environmental organizations and individuals, as well as all governmental levels communicating with each other, that we believe will help firm up the federal decision on this bill,” said Lange.
She said the bill was crucial considering the province’s lacklustre ability to respond to oil spills along the coast, citing the province’s response to B.C’s most recent oil spill in the waters off Bella Bella when the tug Nathan E. Stewart sank and spilled oil into Gale Pass in October 2016.
“There is a pathetic oil spill response system in place on the B.C. coast. Locally, the tiny shed of spill response equipment at MK Bay is an example of the current shameful system,” said Lange.
She said it was important not to underestimate the power of communities and municipalities in the lobbying against oil companies, adding that the Enbridge project ground to a halt following strong opposition from civil society.
“At the provincial level the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted to say no to shipping bitumen off the coast of B.C., but it is hard to know what effect the municipal level has on the federal level of power,” added Lange.
Discussing whether to approve council’s support for the letter, concern was expressed by councillors over whether the bill would affect the transport of products that would be produced at the two oil refineries proposed for Kitimat.
Mayor Phil Germuth assured council that the transport of persistent oils produced by the refineries, like gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel, would not be affected by the bill.
“Bill C-48 is consistent with what council heard from the community during the Enbridge plebiscite,” said Germuth. “Unrefined products should not be transported along B.C.’s coast.”