MP Cullen plans for new bill to ban crude tankers

A bill would ban crude tankers and give greater weight to public opinion during regulatory processes.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is putting forward a bill in parliament that would ban crude oil tankers on the north coast.

The bill, which hasn’t been presented yet which means specifics are as-yet unknown, would ban tankers carrying unrefined products on the coast, and would also give greater weight to public input on projects being considered by the National Energy Board.

A third component would have the NEB give greater value to projects which provide a value-added component, for instance oil refineries.

The inspiration for the bill has come from all of the trouble…around the Northern Gateway Pipeline,” said Cullen.

He says the ban on super tankers would be putting in to a law a motion he put forward in 2010.

“Right now the legislation that guides the National Energy Board allows them to have public hearings but doesn’t implore the regulator to actually do anything about it,” he said. “We saw this in Northern Gateway.”

In terms of support, he thinks he has about half of the MPs on his side.

“I think it’s 50/50 right now which doesn’t sound incredibly high but with…getting Conservatives to vote for anything the Prime Minister doesn’t want them to is always an uphill battle,” he said. “I think I’ve got a fair chance at least having a conversation with those MPs.”

We sought comment from Enbridge Northern Gateway on the potential impacts from the bill. Company spokesperson Ivan Giesbrecht, through e-mail, said that the decisions on what products to ship is beyond the scope of their business as an energy transporter.

“Market decisions on oil refining are beyond the scope of our business. Northern Gateway’s role is connecting supply with demand safely and responsibly. We do not make the decisions on what product is transported, or where it is marketed,” he said.

He added, “There is tremendous demand in overseas markets for Canadian oil and Northern Gateway provides access to those markets so that we may see full value for our resource. That is good for all Canadians. Northern Gateway provides our customers an option should a refinery be built in Kitimat. Northern Gateway could also ship upgraded oil from Alberta.  Northern Gateway could also ship a variety of refined products. The bottom line is Northern Gateway provides options –but it is important to note that in all cases, a pipeline is still required.”

Meanwhile the proponent of an oil refinery in the Kitimat Valley, David Black, (also the chairman of Black Press, which owns this newspaper) says this bill is exactly what’s needed.

“On this particular point I think they’ve got the right idea.

“As you know I got onboard this project because I didn’t want to see [diluted] bitumen put in tankers,” said Black. “One little mistake at sea and we could destroy our coast for a long time, and the fishery….I think they’re [NDP] spot on.”

Whether it’s passed or not he said the bill will be good for sparking a conversation about energy transportation.

“If it were a political move to prevent the export of oil all-together then I would not be in favour but it’s not. In this case, refineries are viable.”