Tanker concerns prompt Coast Guard review of B.C. oil export plans

Concerns south of the border over oil tanker traffic from British Columbia have spurred a U.S. Coast Guard review of proposed increases in Canadian oil exports.

VANCOUVER — Concerns south of the border over oil tanker traffic from British Columbia have spurred a U.S. Coast Guard review of proposed increases in Canadian oil exports.

A legislative amendment proposed by Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell and signed into law by President Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago gives the U.S. marine safety agency six months to conduct a risk assessment of the planned expansion of oil pipeline capacity to the West Coast.

While several proposed projects would see oil from the Alberta oil sands brought to the B.C. coast for export primarily to China, the legislation deals specifically with tanker traffic out of the Vancouver area.

“According to reports, Canada is poised to increase oil tanker traffic through the waters around the San Juan Islands and the Juan de Fuca by up to 300 per cent,” said a statement issued by Cantwell’s office.

“A supertanker oil spill near our shores would threaten Washington state’s thriving coastal economy and thousands of jobs,” the Democratic senator said in the statement. “This bill will provide crucial information for Washington coastal communities by requiring a detailed risk analysis….”

The Coast Guard will study the risk of transporting oil via supertanker, tanker and barge through the Salish Sea waterways, which encompasses U.S. and Canadian territorial waters between southern Vancouver Island and the mainland. It includes Juan de Fuca Strait, the Strait of Georgia, Haro and Rosario Straits and Puget Sound.

In order for ships to arrive at port in Vancouver, they usually sail through U.S. waters next to a national marine sanctuary.

The Coast Guard will examine which rules and regulations apply to oil tankers heading to B.C. ports, as well as analyze the toxicity of what is referred to in the legislation as “tar sands” oil — a derogatory moniker much opposed by the Canadian industry.

There are two major oil pipeline proposals currently on the table in British Columbia.

Calgary-based Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would transport oil from the Edmonton area to a tanker port in Kitimat, on the north coast.

But the U.S. legislation appears to affect mainly Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the capacity of its existing oil pipeline from Alberta to the Vancouver area.

The $4.3-billion TransMountain project would more than double the capacity of the 1,100-kilometre pipeline, from 300,000 barrels a day to 750,000.

It would also allow the pipeline, which currently transports crude and refined oil from the Alberta oil sands, to transport diluted bitumen, a heavy oil critics say is more difficult to contain and clean-up in the event of a marine spill.

In operation since 1953, TransMountain runs from just outside Edmonton to Burnaby, and from there the oil is distributed through separate pipelines to local terminals, a refinery and the Westridge marine terminal in Port Metro Vancouver.

The Westridge terminal currently handles about eight vessels a month, five of them tankers. That would increase to about 28 a month, 25 of them tankers, under the proposed expansion plan.

If the application is successful, construction could begin in 2016 and additional oil could be flowing in 2017.

Vancouver city council has passed a motion opposing the expansion, and the mayor of Burnaby — the site of a 2007 spill from the pipeline — has spoken out against the project at a public meeting.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Denis Lebel said the two countries are constantly working together for the safe and secure transportation of natural resources across their shared border.

“Our government has been clear: If any project does not meet or surpass our stringent environmental standards, it will not proceed,” spokesman James Kelly said in an email.

“Canada has already strengthened our strong record of environmental protection by requiring double-hulled tankers, mandatory pilotage and increasing navigational tools – and that work continues.”

According to the Washington Research Council, the state has five major petroleum refineries of its own that process about 560,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel through Puget Sound on an annual basis.

The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard must submit recommendations to the House of Representatives’ transport committee by the end of June.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read