Liberals introduce oil-tanker ban for north coast and Haida Gwaii

New bill would ban most tankers carrying crude or ‘persistent’ oil, but not LNG or gasoline.

Canada’s transport minister introduced a law today that would ban most oil tankers from the north coast and Haida Gwaii.

The proposed bill would ban any tankers that carry over 12,500 metric tons of crude or persistent oil from stopping or unloading anywhere near Haida Gwaii or along the B.C. coast between Alaska and the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Anyone who defies the ban could face fines of up to $5 million.

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau says the bill makes good on a campaign promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015.

“It’s one of the last major temperate rainforests on Earth,” said Garneau, when asked why the bill seeks to protect the north coast in particular.

“It’s an extremely important ecosystem.”

Besides crude oil, the ban applies to a list of 14 ‘persistent’ oils, such as various bunker fuels, synthetic crude, slack wax, and partially upgraded bitumen.

“They tend to sink, and there’s no way to remove them unless you do it manually,” said Garneau.

“We’re very concerned about those kinds in particular, because of their effect on the environment.”

If science later shows that more types of oil should be added to the ‘persistent’ list, Garneau said the bill allows for it.

Likewise, he said oils could be removed from the list if new technology allows for their safe clean-up.

“We did this according to the best science available,” he said.

The law does not ban bulk shipping of refined fuels that break up or evaporate in case of a spill, such as gasoline, jet fuel, or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Also, the proposed law exempts tankers that carry less than 12,500 metric tons of crude or persistent oil as cargo — an exemption intended to allow critical shipment of fuels, home-heating oil, and other goods to coastal communities and industries.

Asked why the bill does not ban tankers from simply passing through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, or Queen Charlotte Sound, Garneau said such passage is allowed by international law, but it has effectively stopped under a voluntary tanker exclusion zone that the U.S. and Canada agreed some 30 years ago.

“That has been respected since 1985, and we still intend to keep that voluntary exclusion zone in place,” he said.

Garneau made nine trips to B.C. to consult on the bill, including a meeting with Haida Nation President Peter Lantin and other leaders of coastal First Nations.

“There was a range of advice, and a range of opinions,” he said.

“It was not 100 per cent, everybody unanimous about any particular position.”

Garneau noted that besides the tanker ban, the Trudeau government’s $1.5-billion oceans protection plan will boost marine safety for the existing marine traffic around Haida Gwaii — a boost that is clearly needed given incidents such as the near running-aground of the disabled Russian cargo ship Simushir on the Haida Gwaii coast three years ago.

Patrick Kelly, board chair of Coastal First Nations, said today in a press release that while First Nations leaders have yet to review the proposed bill in detail, it appears to address most concerns.

“We fought hard against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project,” said Kelly.

“This law puts to an end any future oil pipeline and tanker project in our territories.”

Local NDP MP Nathan Cullen also said that at first glance, he’s optimistic about the new bill.

“In some ways, this is the home stretch of a 40-year campaign for people in the northwest, and right across British Columbia,” said Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, noting that proposed Liberal bill is similar to a private member’s bill he brought forward.

“It’s taken longer than I would have liked.”

Cullen said he looks forward to hearing expert testimony about the proposed bill, including testimony from people who live on the coast and Haida Gwaii.

While also broadly supportive, groups such as West Coast Environmental Law have called for a smaller local-shipments exemption that would only allow tankers carrying 2,000, rather than 12,500 metric tons of fuel. Others have questioned whether the western boundary of the voluntary exclusion zone is far enough from the Haida Gwaii coast.

Cullen said such issues are worth looking at in detail, along with the transit of oil barges smaller than 12,500 metric tons between Alaska and Washington State.

“I think the recent sinking and various close calls we’ve had on bulk transports will call into question any exemptions,” he said, noting that a tug boat which recently sank near Bella Bella spilled 100,000 litres of diesel even though the relatively small oil barge it was towing was empty.

“Sometimes it’s not the infrequent and very large, but the smaller and very frequent things that cause you the highest risk,” he said.

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

 

Just Posted

Carving talent on display at ANBT

Clint Adams carves tradtional First Nations designs in copper, silver, gold and wood

Prince Rupert Rampage go the distance to knock off Hazelton

Sunday afternoon victory caps off contentious series; Terrace River Kings up next

New Aiyansh stun Hydaburg to claim first ever All Native Masters Division title

Buzzer beating three pointer by Rich Wolff caps wild comeback; Justin Adams chosen as MVP

Prince Rupert reigns once again at All Native Tournament

Cubs score first Intermediate banner for Prince Rupert since 2010

Skidegate Saints return to top of the Seniors Division with comeback effort against Metlakatla AK

Jesse Barnes wins MVP as Saints get revenge on Alaska side in All Native finale

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Most Read