Just because there has never been an oil tanker spill in B.C. waters does not logically presume that there never will be, particularly with the resulting increase in tanker traffic from one tanker per week to seven or eight per week if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal is approved [“Trans Mountain pipeline alarmism based on misinformation”, web-only]. That’s an increase of 60 tankers per year to 408 tankers per year. Statistically speaking, it is probable that there will be an incident in the next 10 years resulting from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, be it a spill from the pipeline or a tanker, an accident or spill at Westridge Terminal, or a fire, explosion, or chemical spill on the pipeline at Westridge Terminal or onboard a tanker.
Our government has management plans, training, and equipment for spills of up to 10,000 tonnes—despite the fact that some of the tankers expected in B.C. will hold much more than that; however, Kinder Morgan bears no financial responsibility for any spill that happens once a tanker leaves Westridge Terminal. Tankers carry insurance with a maximum liability of $1.35 billion, which sounds like a lot until you hear that estimates to clean up a spill on B.C.’s North Coast run as high as $9.6 billion. Who will be paying that hefty bill?
What’s more is that Kinder Morgan’s president was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying that the company’s emergency-response plan will not be made public because of “very real security concerns that we have with respect to posting our full and complete plans where critical valves and critical access points to the system are delineated”. Shouldn’t B.C. residents, particularly those with tank farms and pipelines in their backyards, be aware of the Kinder Morgan emergency-response plan?
Also worth noting is that this pipeline and the tankers will be transporting dilbit (diluted bitumen), not highly viscous crude oil. Dilbit is a gooey mass extracted from the Alberta tarsands using steam and pressure. It does not flow freely and must be mixed with a proprietary mixture of chemical diluents based on its composition in order to move through a pipeline.
Many mixtures use benzene, a known carcinogen. In the event of a spill, the dilbit will separate into its components and dissipate, sending toxic chemicals into the air and water. Bitumen does not float like crude oil. It will sink to the ocean floor. Most industry experts agree that in the case of a spill, less than 50 percent of spilled oil is collected or evaporated, leaving more than 50 percent in the environment forever.
According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, tanker traffic has increased and spills have decreased, but if one reads its website carefully, yes, there was only one large spill greater than 700 tonnes in 2014. However, there were also four medium spills of seven to 700 tonnes and “several incidents” of fires
and explosions onboard tankers, with an undetermined amount of fuel burned.
These incidents should be as alarming as an oil spill to B.C. residents because toxic fumes released into the atmosphere are extremely harmful.
> Janice Edmonds / North Shore No Pipeline Expansion Society