New headaches for tar sands pipeline proponents as oil fouls Vancouver harbour

Annis, Roger
http://rogerannis.com/new-headaches-for-tar-sands-pipeline-proponents-as-oil-fouls-vancouver-harbour/

Publisher:  A Socialist in Canada
Date Written:  11/04/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX18110

A bad turn of events for the local environment and for some of the oil barons targeting their entire planet in their climate-wrecking plans. That's an apt summary of the oil spill that has fouled the beaches and harbour of Vancouver BC beginning on April 8, 2015.

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A bad turn of events for the local environment and for some of the oil barons targeting their entire planet in their climate-wrecking plans. That’s an apt summary of the oil spill that has fouled the beaches and harbour of Vancouver BC beginning on April 8.

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An ocean-going grain ship, the MV Marathassa, that was moored in Vancouver’s outer harbour (English Bay) began to spill toxic fuel—bunker oil—at 5 pm on that date. The ship was queued to move through the very narrow passage into Vancouver’s inner harbour for loading. A passing recreation sailor noticed the spill and contacted Vancouver’s harbour authority. Coast Guard and other emergency responders took several hours to arrive and try to find the source of the spill. By then, darkness had arrived.

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No one knows for sure how much was spilled. Official announcements say 1,500 liters, 2,500 liters, 3,000 liters. The scale of the spread is not yet fully known. Rains and stormy weather arrived 48 hours after the spill. This added to the inexorable spread of the oil that the tidal motions bring.

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Officials had announced that people should not go to the beaches because of the danger of toxic fumes and contamination by contact, but people with their cameras would not be deterred. CBC national news reported on April 10 that thousands of Vancouver residents are volunteering to clean up but are being told “go away” because the administration to coordinate volunteers, or maybe the will to involve them, does not exist.

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The day after the spill began, it was reported that Coast Guard officials had waited 12 hours before alerting Vancouver region municipal officials that something was amiss. Until then, people continued to walk along the beaches, allowing their pets to swim in the water, and they continued to paddle or sail their recreation vessels through the expanding spill. The offices of Environment Canada and Transport Canada, the federal agencies supposedly responsible for such a disaster, were apparently nowhere to be seen.

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How bad is the spill? It’s not an Exxon Valdez. Its small volume will limit the range of its spread. But it’s already too late for Vancouver’s beaches (a mix of rock, pebble or sand, depending on location) as maybe its inner harbour.

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Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, moving large quantities of grains and grain oils, sulphur (a by-product of western Canada’s oil extraction industry), chemicals, lumber and paper products and large quantities of containers of manufactured goods.

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or the past ten years or so (since the election of the Conservatives in Ottawa in 2006), the port has undergone a vast expansion under the umbrella of a federal government-funded plan called the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiaitive. The expansion has meant not only more dock and shipping facilities and more goods moving in and out but also more railroads and highways and bridges so that all the excess and wasteful products that are moved 365 days a year can be bought and sold more quickly.

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While the planet burns from growing greenhouse gas emission, the Port of Vancouver has thrown open its arms to coal exports. Currently, the Port is backing an absurd proposal to build a fourth coal exporting facility (Fraser Surrey Docks) in the region. It would be located on the main channel of the Fraser River delta.

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Oil. Right now, about two to three oil tankers per month load up with Alberta oil arriving by pipeline to the inner harbour of Vancouver and set sail for U.S. or Asian markets. Relatively small quantities of oil arrive by rail. But the Kinder Morgan company has an application presently before the National Energy Board to build an expanded pipeline, ‘Trans Mountain’, along its existing route to carry toxic Alberta tar sands product. It will increase oil tanker traffic sevenfold. The blow to those ambitions is the really large part of the story of this latest oil spill.

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CBC Radio went to the shoreline of English Bay the day after the spill to gauge the reaction of residents and onlookers. The people to whom CBC spoke voiced dismay and anger at the fouling of the iconic recreation space and wildlife habitat. One resident put her finger on the one, big outcome that will have oil barons and government lapdog agencies losing sleep. She said, “In a way, I’m glad to see this happen because it will wake people up to something far worse that could happen if the Kinder Morgan pipeline is ever built.”

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