A report from Canada’s Environment Commissioner warns that federal disaster plans for oil spills have not kept pace with the increase of supertankers exporting oil from British Columbia (B.C.) ports.
In a February 2013 report, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan wrote that supertanker trips off the West Coast are expected to quadruple in the coming years to meet the demand for natural gas and oil sands crude. In 2010, B.C. averaged 600 supertankers, but that number could soar to 2,400 in the near future, Vaughan warned.
These supertankers, Vaughan wrote, have the potential to spill up to 300,000 tonnes of oil. Federal disaster response plans, however, are only capable of handling spills up to 10,000 tonnes.
In part, the “2012 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development” addressed the issue of Canada’s ability to handle a large oil spill as a response to environmental petitions by non-profits like EcoJustice and Sierra Club of Canada.
“You don't have to be a radical to understand the threat of a 300 per cent increase in tanker traffic off the West Coast,” said John Bennett, executive director at Sierra Club of Canada, in a February 2013 public statement following the release of Scott’s report.
Vaughan’s report also confirmed the risk that the current $1.3 billion per spill maritime liability limit for tankers “may not be sufficient in the wake of a major spill from a vessel in Canadian waters.”
The federal government has since indicated that it is reviewing liability requirements. Soon after Scott’s report was tabled in Parliament on February 5, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to the assertion that Canada’s precautionary measures are lagging.
“I think the government has already been clear that responsible resource development means that as we see the growth in resource development over the decades to come, there will have to be enhanced measures of environmental protection,” Harper told the House of Commons.
This news item first appeared in EcoLog News. To learn how to subscribe, visit www.ecolog.com