Even moderate oil spill would 'overwhelm' B.C. resources, say officials
Documents reveal Coast Guard lack needed 'environmental expertise'
A worker uses a small boat to move logs on the Douglas Channel at dusk in Kitimat, B.C., in this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 photo. Officials in British Columbia privately warned the province lacks the ability to manage oil spills from existing and future oil traffic, and even a moderate spill would overwhelm their ability to respond, documents show.
Photograph by: Canadian Press , The Canadian Press, Vancouver Sun
Officials in British Columbia have privately warned the province lacks the ability to manage oil spills from existing and expanded oil traffic, and even a moderate spill would overwhelm their ability to respond, documents show.
Ottawa's decision to deal with coastal oil spills from a base in Quebec would make it much harder to contain spills here, and Transport Canada and the Coast Guard lack the needed "environmental expertise" to manage them, officials said in the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under freedom of information laws.
The notes were written by B.C. Environment Ministry officials for the incoming minister's briefing book in June, and other concerns were detailed by emergency response officials in memos from last year.
Environment Ministry bureaucrats voiced a range of misgivings for minister Mary Polak. "The Ministry of Environment, as the ministry responsible for preparedness, prevention, response and recovery for spills, is not adequately staffed and resourced to meet the existing and emerging expectations to address spills," they wrote in the briefing book.
"Even a moderately-sized spill would overwhelm the province's ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government. ... The industry requirements, established by Transport Canada, are perceived as being insufficient in both scope and scale. For example, in both Washington state and Alaska industry requirements are far in excess of what is required in B.C."