Risk to marine environment will grow with increased tanker traffic
Victoria - The collision of an oil tanker with San Francisco’s Bay Bridge provides another example of why increased traffic due to the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipeline projects should give British Columbians cause for grave concern, says Green Party of BC Leader Jane Sterk.
Fortunately the Overseas Reymar was empty when the San Francisco incident occurred. The tanker sustained “scrapes and dents” the U.S. Coast Guard reported, but no oil was spilled. Had the vessel been fully loaded, and had its collision not been into impact fenders around the bridge, the outcome might have been far more serious.
“This accident occurred on a well known, highly controlled waterway,” Ms. Sterk noted. “It shows, once again, that there is no way to assure the risk of disastrous oil spills near either Vancouver or Kitimat would not become a terrible reality if we allow the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan projects to add significantly to the tanker traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hecate Strait.”
Ms. Sterk noted this is the second time in the last six years a boat has collided with the Bay Bridge. In November, 2007 a container ship Cosco Busan hit a support tower, spilling 53,000 gallons of fuel oil, which fouled 26 miles of shoreline in San Mateo and Marin counties, killing more than 6,800 birds and resulting in $58 million in fines and damage claims.
Both incidents occurred despite stringent regulations, and even though the vessels were in the control of local pilots; both were attributed to poor visibility due to heavy fog. “Accidents happen, despite the best controls,” Ms. Sterk noted. “An accident involving a tanker carrying thousands of tonnes of heavy oil would cause irreparable damage to the sensitive marine ecosystems of BC.”
She cited a recent incident at Robert’s Bank as another example of the risks. The bulk carrier Cape Apricot crashed at the Westshore Terminals coal port at Robert's Bank, slicing through over 100 metres of the causeway, tearing out the coal conveyer system and dumping tonnes of raw coal into the ocean.
Ms. Sterk noted that the U.S. Coast Guard has been ordered to conduct a risk assessment in response to a projected 300 percent increase in tanker traffic that would result in the Salish Sea and Juan de Fuca Strait due to the Kinder Morgan proposal. "A supertanker oil spill near our shores would threaten Washington state's thriving coastal economy and thousands of jobs," said Democratic Washington State senator Maria Cantwell.
“The Green Party of BC opposes both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan projects because they add unacceptable levels of direct risk to BC’s environment,” Ms. Sterk said. “We also oppose them because they will certainly contribute to continued reliance and increased use of fossil fuels, and to the inevitable consequences of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Jane Sterk, Ph.D.
Leader, Green Party of BC