The fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay should serve as a warning about the risks posed by oil tankers, says environmental activist Ben West.
The executive director of Tanker Free B.C. was referencing the discharge of bunker fuel from a grain ship Wednesday night (April 8).
“This is a scary reminder of the potential nightmare scenario of what could happen if there’s increased tanker traffic along our coast,” West said in a statement.
“Hopefully this incident can be contained, although it’s not good news that oil is showing up at Sunset Beach,” West also said.
West went on to mention the proposed expansion by Kinder Morgan of its Trans Mountain pipeline between Strathcona County, near Edmonton, Alberta, and Burnaby in B.C.
The project would twin the pipeline, increasing its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.
The $5.4-billion expansion also includes 20 new tanks to be added to the storage terminals in Burnaby and Sumas in B.C., and in Edmonton.
The Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby would be upgraded with three new berths.
West said: “Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline and tanker project would see an increase from the current 80 tankers a year to over 400 tankers a year carrying primarily tar sands bitumen which is more likely to sink in the marine environment potentially causing significant harm.”
Referring to the grain ship that spilled fuel, West also said: “It may actually be lucky that this is only bunker fuel and not bitumen. If this were a spill of tar sands oil and this much time had passed without it being contained it likely would be game over for any kind of clean up.”
The Georgia Strait Alliance also cited Kinder Morgan’s expansion project in a statement reacting to the fuel spill in English Bay.
“We need stronger spill response to deal with the threat we already face, and we need to minimize future risks by saying no to projects like Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion that would dramatically increase tanker traffic in our waters,” executive director Christianne Wilhelmson said.
Wilhelmson also said: “With a toxic substance like heavy bunker fuel, even a relatively small spill can be highly damaging to marine life. Today’s accident is a grim reminder of the environmental risks we face from existing shipping traffic in our waters, and raises questions about how prepared we are to deal with spills, and who will bear the costs of clean-up.”