Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) applauds the decision of British Columbia’s local elected officials to vote in support of strengthening community oil spill emergency planning and response at the Union of BC Municipalities convention.
Resourcing local governments for oil and hazardous and noxious substances emergency planning response, or Resolution A4, was one of five top priority issues selected for special discussion at the start of the convention as a policy matter that highlights issues of concern around the province.
Planning and response to marine oil spills are multi-jurisdictional efforts, led by the federal government. However, a GSA-commissioned expert research report demonstrated these senior partners often fail to include local communities, and that local governments lack the resources they need to adequately prepare to manage the impacts of a spill.
The response to this year’s Marathassa spill in English Bay showed that untested plans and a lack of clarity in roles among the governments and agencies involved led to significant delays in response times. It also showed that cities and towns have an important role to play.
“Coastal communities have the most to lose from a marine oil spill, and they must be involved with an issue that affects them directly,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of GSA. “Oil spill risk and response is a key election issue on the West Coast, and today’s vote signals that British Columbians expect the next federal government to provide communities with the tools and resources they need to protect public safety and the environment.”
Specifically, resolution A4 calls for the federal government “to develop a comprehensive emergency response plan and procedure for hazardous and noxious substance spill related emergencies that includes due recognition of and compensation for the role of local government emergency response services.”
The resolution also calls for provincial and federal governments “to expand the scope of oil and hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) risk assessment and response planning to include all impacts and consequences on local communities and governments, and introduce additional funding for the resources and locally-specific capacity building required to ensure that local governments are in the best possible position to plan for and protect communities and the environment in the event of fires, explosions, spills and related incidents as a result of increasing transportation of oil and HNS.”
The solution that forms part of this resolution is for citizens, First Nations and local governments to be involved in preparedness and response planning. Adequate representation by local levels of government translates into BC’s coastal communities being better positioned to manage the consequences should oil wash ashore.
About Georgia Strait Alliance
Formed in 1990, Georgia Strait Alliance is the only conservation group working to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters and communities. As an intervenor in the National Energy Board’s review of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, GSA has submitted expert research on the challenges surrounding local government involvement in marine oil spills.
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