Vancouver’s Second Oil Spill of the Year

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Within hours of Vancouver’s second oil spill of the year, BC’s Minister of Environment  announced the province will move ahead on plans for a World-leading spill response team.

Vancouver’s Second Oil Spill of the Year

An estimated 1,000 gallons of diesel spilled into the area around Fishermen’s Wharf late Sunday night. The accident was reported at 10:30 p.m. and, because the federal government closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station,  clean-up did not start for another five hours. Environment Minister Mary Pollack said she “could not speculate” about the difference still having a base in Vancouver would have made. Luckily it was diesel, which stays on the surface and is easy to clean-up.

“The spill appears to have received an efficient and effective response,” said Pollack.

She acknowledged that the present spill response is “outdated” and economic development “cannot be at the expense of our environment.”

Not Ready for A Major Spill

The Minister added, “Our experience with smaller spills and near misses shows the province is not prepared for a major spill. Our goal is to have a World leading spill regime in place and we recognize we are not there yet”

She denied that this was not in response to the proposed Northern Gateway or Kinder Morgan pipeline projects, saying it was devised after years of conversations with local government, First Nations and industry.

“The vast majority of incidents to which we respond, as a ministry, have nothing to do with the oil and gas industry and everything to do with smaller types of industry, with the support of hazardous materials that support other industries,”said Pollock.

Both of this year’s Vancouver spills originated with shipping.

New Land Based Spill Response

The ingredients of BC’s new land based spill response include:

  • A provincially certified, industry-funded Preparedness and Response Organization (PRO) to make sure trained people are ready to immediately respond to any spill, with
    appropriate equipment and in a co-ordinated way.
  • New legislative and regulatory requirements for spill preparedness, response and recovery.
  • Geographically based planning and response that will see active participation by First Nations, first responders and local communities.

Steps To Come

The funding and leadership of this project is to come from industry.

If the Kinder Morgan pipeline project goes forward, this program will work in conjunction with their spill response program.

Legislation empowering the government to proceed will probably be forthcoming during the Spring of 2016.

“This won’t happen overnight, but we are targeting 2017 to begin implementing these new requirement,” said Pollack.

Image Above: Fishermen’s Wharf in Vancouver by Ruth Hartnup via Flickr (CC BY SA< 2.0 License)

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