Oops I Spilled it Again: Why Exxon History is Repeating
s Saturday March 24th marked the 23rd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill
the question arises whether the Canadian government has learned any
lessons from the 1989 disaster that occurred in Prince William Sound,
The answer appears to be a resounding "no," given the support to
expand Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline
and the dramatic escalation in oil tanker traffic that will accompany it.
On the south coast of British Columbia, Kinder Morgan's proposed
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would see 229 oil tankers filled with
tar sands bitumen annually transit from Burrard Inlet through the Salish Sea region as they head for hydrocarbon-hungry American and Asian markets.
The implications are enormous for the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound
"This archipelago hosts wild salmon populations, migratory
birds on the Pacific flyway, important estuaries, shellfish beds and the
habitats of many rare, threatened or endangered marine and coastal
species," says Raincoast Conservation Foundation biologist Misty
"The Salish Sea is already suffering intense pressures from
growth; chronic oiling and spills will only intensify the declining
health of this ecologically fragile region. Further, the tanker route
overlays critical habitat for our endangered
southern resident killer whales. The Exxon Valdez oil spill fatally impacted two populations of Alaskan killer whales."
"The Gulf Islands
tanker route is also risky from a vessel traffic perspective. More than
400,000 vessel movements occur annually on the coast, and accidents
such as collisions, groundings, and fires are common. Serious
inadequacies in response capabilities have been identified by federal
and provincial agencies that would hinder rescue and containment
operations," says Raincoast Marine Operations Coordinator Brian
The south coast of B.C. relies heavily on the availability of
American rescue tugs based out of Washington state to respond to
incidents. Procedures between the B.C. government and the federal
government to coordinate responses to large vessel incidents are not
A November 2010 article in the Winnipeg Free Press
revealed that according to an internal audit
"The Canadian Coast Guard lacks the training, equipment and management
systems to fulfill its duties to respond to offshore pollution incidents
such as oil spills . . . The audit paints an alarming picture of an
agency that would play a key role in Canada's response to a major oil
spill off the world's longest coastline."
The article also identifies
the relatively paltry budget of $9.8 million for the coast guard's
environmental response unit.