Province proposes restrictions on increased bitumen transport

Georgia Strait Alliance commends measures as needed protection for coastal communities and local waters

Today, the Province announced five possible new regulations aimed at protecting our region from the threats of transporting bitumen and heavy oil. Included is the intention, that while a Science Panel conducts research into the unique properties and behaviour of bitumen, that the Province will restrict increases in the transport of this substance.

In response, Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance, said:

“With today’s proposed measures, the Province is acknowledging that diluted bitumen behaves differently than conventional oil. It is a hazardous and toxic substance. The best available science says it can sink or be suspended in water. Currently, there is no effective technology that exists to clean it up, making prevention the only safe approach to protect our local waters, communities, economies and ecosystems. We applaud the government’s decision to limit increases on new bitumen transports while it is being studied.

Strengthening the rules around response times for all types of spills, and an increased focus on the importance of geographic response plans are much needed regulations, and integrating all stakeholders will be critical to the outcome and will ensure local knowledge is incorporated when spills happen.

The precaution shown here as it relates to bitumen is very important and welcome, as a major oil spill would have local, economic, environmental and health impacts throughout the Salish Sea region. For example, a pipeline rupture over salmon-bearing streams would be extremely detrimental to some already weak and declining salmon stocks, regardless of whether the polluter is required to pay significant restitution costs.

We need only to look to the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010 to see how unprepared emergency spill response is, particularly when it involves responding to the unique properties of diluted bitumen. We commend the Province for recognizing these gaps and taking steps that prioritize protection and prevention before it’s too late.

At Georgia Strait Alliance, we look forward to reviewing and taking part in the Province’s consultations and discussion, and working to ensure regulations are based on the best-available science. These regulations should support the wellbeing of residents and the ecosystems that we depend on for a thriving economy and healthy communities.

Our expectation is that any results from the Panel will be applied to all existing transport of diluted bitumen as soon as possible—and that the federal government consider these measures as they relate to marine oil spills.”

For more information:

Christianne Wilhelmson
Executive Director
Georgia Strait Alliance