Methanex, Encana Violate 34-year old Oil Tanker Moratorium

Condensate tanker docked in Kitimat this weekend after passing through BC’s inside passage

Media Release: June 26, 2006

Vancouver– Oil tankers are being allowed to secretly enter BC’s fragile inside waters despite widespread public opposition and a 34-year old federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas activities, which includes oil tanker traffic. Natural Resources Canada most recently confirmed the moratorium in 2003, stating: “In 1972, the Government of Canada imposed a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound due to concerns over the potential environmental impacts. The moratorium was subsequently extended to include oil and gas activities.”

This past weekend an oil tanker carrying approximately 350,000 barrels of “condensate” entered BC’s inside passage bound for Methanex’s marine terminal. This tanker traveled through Caamano Sound and 166 km up Douglas Channel to Kitimat, along the route where the BC ferry Queen of the North recently sank. The tanker offloaded its condensate, a toxic mix of chemicals and petroleum derivates used to dilute thick crude oil, onto railcars for transport to Encana’s operations in Alberta.

“It is outrageous that companies like Encana, Methanex and Enbridge are denying a moratorium that has been in existence for over 30 years,” says Oonagh O’Connor of Living Oceans Society. “The conclusion of the federal government’s review on the offshore oil ban in 2004 was that the moratorium on tanker traffic should remain in place, yet industry is ignoring the recommendation and putting our coastal waters at risk.”

“Recent government and industry claims that the moratorium doesn’t apply to tankers are incomprehensible in the face of long-standing federal policy,” stated Jessica Clogg, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law.

Despite strong public support for the existing federal moratorium both the federal and provincial governments are allowing five oil and gas companies to seek approval for projects that would bring tankers into Kitimat to ship petroleum products to and from Asia and the U.S. (see backgrounder). In addition to the Methanex-Encana scheme, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Pembina and Kitimat LNG are all moving ahead quickly with separate projects that would bring tankers into BC’s fragile inside passage. Two recent polls confirm British Columbians overwhelmingly oppose tankers in northern inside waters. Both show three out of four British Columbians support a ban on oil tankers, with support even higher outside the lower mainland, where 8 in 10 adults oppose tankers in BC’s inside passage.

“Our governments are supposed to protect the public interest, not scheme with fossil fuel companies to secretly open up BC’s fragile coast to unwanted tankers,” said Will Horter, lawyer and Dogwood Initiative’s Executive Director. “In 1972, British Columbians stood up and demanded a ban on tankers. They will do so again because we do not want to risk our fragile coastlines and the economic future of our coastal communities for only a few jobs. Any politician that ignores this does so at their peril.”

“The Federal Government should be contemplating some form of penalty for companies that break the moratorium, instead they appear to be sanctioning it,” said Colin Campbell of the Sierra Club of Canada–BC Chapter. “Allowing more oil tankers in northern coastal waters is a disaster waiting to happen.”

“A tanker accident in these treacherous inside waters is a question of when not if. And when it happens, studies from the Exxon Valdez spill show that it will continue to impact marine life for decades,” said Sabine Jessen, Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

View Media Backgrounder.


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