We will not earn Greenest City title if we are West Coast’s major tar sands-oil port

Despite losing faith in the NEB's hearing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr is compelled to participate in order to register her strong opposition.

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Our local economy is highly dependent on a thriving tourism industry. The long term impacts of a spill — especially of thick, heavy bitumen which sinks to depths where clean-up is virtually impossible — are now well known after the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan which is still not cleaned up. Vancouver is striving to be the world’s Greenest City. This goal will be unachievable if we become the West Coast’s major Tar Sands oil port.

The danger of a spill is real. The near tripling of the capacity of the Westridge Terminal would mean an estimated 10 tankers a week: 520 tankers a year that must pass through the Second Narrows in Burrard Inlet, in what is considered by many the riskiest oil-tanker passage in the world. The big tankers carrying 500,000 and 700,000 barrels of bitumen must leave at high tide. At high tide there are only about two metres of draft under the keel. The waters in this narrow passage are swift and turbulent and the tide drops quickly. There is no room for error, but we all know that human error cannot be full eliminated. The risks are too high to allow this project to move forward.

Those risks were brought home to me in April of this year when the MV Marathassa grain carrier spilled about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel in English Bay, just offshore from Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The spill was first noticed by a recreational sailor. It took 13 hours for our city to be officially informed of the spill. Small releases continued from April 8 to April 13 — five days — until the point of leakage was finally identified.

The Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not have any scientists on staff to sample the waters and wildlife for contamination. In the absence of government scientists, sampling was independently undertaken by scientists engaged by the Vancouver Aquarium. The City of Vancouver also engaged experts to scientifically monitor contamination effects on the environment. The oil dispersed to beaches in Vancouver and to the north shore of Burrard Inlet where clean-up efforts began on April 10.

It is still unknown how much of the oil sank to the ocean bottom.

Adriane Carr walks the walk at a rally on Burrard bridge. Adriane Carr walks the walk at a rally on Burrard bridge. Photo from Green Party of Vancouver.

As a member of Vancouver city council I asked the city staff reporting to us on the Marathassa spill whether or not there was a multi-agency integrated oil-spill emergency response plan for our coast. I was told that, previous to the Marathassa spill, staff had inquired about such a plan but none had been forwarded to the city. In dealing with the spill, they were not aware of such a plan. A few weeks later I attended a meeting of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association that was focused on emergency planning. I asked representatives of Port Metro Vancouver and of IMPREM (Integrated Partnership for Regional Emergency Management) whether an integrated multi-agency marine spill emergency response plan exists. I was told “no."

This is not acceptable. The City of Vancouver is responsible for the safety, health and well-being of our residents. The completely inadequate response to the relatively small Marathassa spill raises huge concerns about the risks, lack of emergency response preparedness and potentially devastating impacts of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

This project should not be approved.

The opposition to this project is overwhelming. It includes all the First Nations surrounding Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal. Based on the literally thousands of conversations I have had with local citizens and the results of the November 2014 local election in which the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project became a key issue, with those opposed now forming a majority on Vancouver city council, I believe opposition to this project includes a clear majority of Vancouver residents. They have nothing to gain and everything precious to our city’s quality of life to lose if this project is approved.

Please consider my comments, and turn this project down.

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