Alarm bells ring with new report of B.C.'s oil-spill system

Michael Smyth: Alarm bells ring with new report of B.C.'s oil-spill system
 

Premier Christy Clark is concerned that B.C. is not prepared for a large coastal oil spill.

Photograph by: Jason Payne , PNG

British Columbia is not prepared for a large coastal oil spill and the spill-prevention-and response system needs a major upgrade, especially before any new oil pipelines are approved.

That will be the bottom line in a new report on the province's oil-spill system to be released this week by the Christy Clark government.

As B.C. debates two major oil-pipeline projects — Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline — the government hired Alaska-based Nuka Research to investigate our coastal-spill system.

The company's report has been received by the government, I'm told, and Clark hinted at its contents in comments last week.

"We are woefully under resourced," Clark said, adding the spill-response system must be improved, especially "before any more heavy oil comes off the coast."

British Columbia already has hundreds of oil tankers passing through coastal waters and this week's report will question whether the spill-response system is adequate even for existing tanker traffic, I'm told.

The report will echo earlier concerns raised about B.C.'s inadequate preparation for a major coastal oil spill.

"Even a moderately sized spill would overwhelm the province's ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government," said briefing notes prepared in June for B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak and obtained by The Canadian Press.

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/woefully+under+resourced+says+Clark/9003288/story.html

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