B.C. oil pipeline opponents mark 25th anniversary of Exxon Valdez spill

VANCOUVER — Opponents of oil tankers off the British Columbia coast marked the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on Monday by launching a renewed campaign against two proposed oil pipeline projects through the province.

VANCOUVER — Opponents of oil tankers off the British Columbia coast marked the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on Monday by launching a renewed campaign against two proposed oil pipeline projects through the province.

Coastal First Nations, a coalition of aboriginal communities, are asking residents to support a ban on oil tankers in their traditional territories, saying Alaska still has not recovered from the effects of the 1989 tanker spill.

The Gitxaala, an aboriginal community occupying islands between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, will make much the same argument to a federal government delegation next week.

“When I watched the news coverage, what did I see?” said Elmer Moody, a hereditary chief with the Gitxaala.

“I saw wildlife covered in oil. I saw oil covering the beaches. When you see that kind of destruction, you have to come to an understanding that it’s going to have an effect on people. We could no longer rely on the resources that we have for thousands of years.”

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in the early morning of March 24, 1989, dumping 257,000 barrels, or 35,000 metric tonnes, into the waters of Prince William Sound, off the Alaska coast.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council estimates 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales died, along with billions of salmon and herring eggs that were destroyed.

The company has said it spent about US$2.1 billion on the cleanup effort, which recovered only about 15 per cent of the oil.

Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said the region has not fully recovered. There remain pockets of oil along the Alaskan Peninsula today.

“I don’t think anyone really expected that after 25 years, and we don’t fully understand why,” he said in a recent NOAA broadcast.

Gravel beaches appeared to return largely to normal five years after the spill, but some animals continue to be affected 25 years later.

One group of orcas is slowly recovering; another is declining toward extinction. Only recently have sea otters and harlequin ducks been upgraded to “recovered” from the spill.

“It’s in some ways encouraging to see that the environment can rebound from something like a major oil spill, but it is still a little distressing that we can’t just say 25 years after the fact that things have recovered completely,” said Shigenaka.

The Exxon Valdez disaster has played heavily into the debate in B.C. over two major pipeline projects that would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to B.C. ports, for shipment overseas to the lucrative markets of Asia.

Calgary-based Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) Northern Gateway to Kitimat and Texas-based Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline into the Vancouver area would see more than 600 oil tankers a year plying the B.C. coast.

Michael Lowry, a spokesman for the Western Canada Marine Response Corp., which is contracted to provide spill response on the Pacific Coast, said the disaster resulted in major changes to U.S. and Canadian laws, and further changes are pending.

“If these projects go ahead, we’re going to become a much larger organization,” said Lowry, whose company already has double or triple the capacity required under the law.

In a full-page ad in Monday’s Vancouver Sun, Stephen Brown, president of the Chamber of Shipping of B.C., called the Exxon disaster “a tragic day that none of us in the marine industry will ever forget.”

But he said there have been technological and regulatory advances since then, and a federal tanker safety expert panel last fall made 45 recommendations for further improvements.

“A safe shipping industry is in everyone’s best interest,” he said.

A federal review panel has recommended approval of the Northern Gateway project after finding that a large oil spill would not cause permanent damage.

A decision is expected from the federal government in June.

Just Posted

Springbrook Skate Park gets financial boost

Province approves $125,000 grant for proposed skate park

ReThink Red Deer gets thumbs up from city on pollinator barn structure

Group is hoping to get a $40,000 building grant

Team Alberta athletes arrive in Red Deer on Saturday for pre-games orientation

Excitement is building with less than a month to go, says Team Alberta spokesperson

UPDATED: STARS Lottery is back

Lacombe STARS patient tells his story

Former Red Deer man named Mr. Gay Canada

To compete in Mr. Gay World

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

Teen vaping is an epidemic: US government

E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, outpacing cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana

‘I never said there was no collusion,’ Trump lawyer says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has ‘never said there was no collusion’

Most Read