Over the course of the last decade, British Columbia has suffered more pipeline incidents than any other province in Canada.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, there were 279 “incidents” involving pipelines in B.C. between 2000 and 2012. A graphic accompanying that article indicates that most of those events and the most severe oil and gas spills occurred around Fort St. John, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, and Metro Vancouver.
The data also shows that the number of incidents at pipelines in B.C. and across Canada increased significantly over the period analyzed.
“By 2011, safety-related incidents—covering everything from unintentional fires to spills—rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline,” the CBC News report states. “That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.”
The article then presents a quote attributed to Patrick Smyth, a spokesperson with the National Energy Board, wherein he claims that there has not been a significant increase in pipeline incidents, but that better reporting practices explain the apparent rise in spills and other accidents.
CBC News obtained the information from the National Energy Board through an access to information request. In addition to oil and natural gas leaks, it covers gas ruptures, equipment failures, and other types of incidents such as worker injuries. Not included are accidents at smaller pipelines monitored by the provinces.
CBC News also recently published an interactive graphic that lets users explore incidents at federally regulated oil pipelines across the country.
On August 26, 2013, the Straight reported on the publication of B.C. Ministry of Environment internal memos warning that the province is poorly equipped to deal with oil spills. Using frank language, the documents express a range of concerns about B.C.’s capacity to manage an oil spill given the level of existing tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast.
“Even a moderately-sized spill would overwhelm the province's ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government,” one memo states. “The industry requirements, established by Transport Canada, are perceived as being insufficient in both scope and scale.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government in Ottawa are currently pushing for the development of two massive pipeline projects in B.C.
If approved, the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will twin an existing pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby, upping capacity for Alberta heavy crude from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000. It's estimated that will result in more than 360 additional tankers per year moving oil through Vancouver waters.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is proposed to run over half a million barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Alberta to a port at Kitimat. That would result in an additional 200 tankers per year navigating heavy crude oil through coastal channels.
Premier Christy Clark and the provincial Liberal government have also shown great enthusiasm for the development of a booming natural gas industry in British Columbia. Proposed developments include a liquefied natural gas terminal at Prince Rupert and a pipeline linking that facility to Fort St. John. Corporations have also put forward plans for a number of additional LNG pipelines that would stretch from B.C.’s interior to the coast.