The North Coast will have a moratorium on tankers carrying crude oil and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau gave an exclusive interview with the Northern View on what the legislation will look like.
“What we are going to be doing is banning crude oil and certain, what we call, persistent oils. These are oils that don’t break up very easily and become environmental contaminants for an extended period of time,” Garneau said over the phone from Vancouver on Nov. 30.
The previous day, the federal government announced the ban on supertankers carrying bitumen in the North Coast when it rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in Kitimat and approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Burnaby.
The tanker ban announcement has been in the works since the prime minister gave Garneau the mandate when he became cabinet minister in Nov. 2015.
In January, the minister visited Prince Rupert to begin consultations. He said he’s spoken with Coastal First Nations, Metlakatla, Haida, Lax Kw’alaams, Haisla, Nisga’a, as well stakeholders in the shipping industry and environmental groups.
“There was not a unanimous consensus. There are a range of opinions but we feel what we are doing represents the majority,” Garneau said adding that it is supported by the majority of Coastal First Nations.
Following the announcement the Coastal First Nations board chair Patrick Kelly called the rejection of Enbridge’s pipeline and the moratorium a double victory.
“At first glance, today’s announcement looks like it should meet our objectives but we will need to take a closer look to better understand what’s included in the federal government’s list of banned substances,” Kelly said.
The moratorium will go from the boundary between Alaska and B.C., down the North Coast, around Haida Gwaii to the tip of Vancouver Island. This border will include Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound and much of the Great Bear Rainforest.
This boundary avoids implications with the U.S. that ships oil from the Alaska to the lower 48 states.
Garneau said the government is taking a land-based approach, meaning that crude oil tankers will not have the legal authority to come into port or to a marine facility within the boundary line. Violators could see a fine up to $5-million.
The government has listed examples of oil products that will be included in the moratorium: synthetic crude oil, pitch, slack wax, partially upgraded bitumen and bunker C fuel oil. Products excluded are propane, liquefied natural gas, jet fuel, gasoline and naphtha.
“We’re going to have the final list when the legislation comes out in the next few months,” Garneau said.
In response to the announcement, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said, “The devil is always in the detail in these things.”
One of those details is hidden under the “enforcement and non-compliance” section of the government’s backgrounder on the tanker ban.
Products included in the moratorium could be amended after a regulatory review by the government. The review would examine the behaviour of the product when spilled and the state of clean up technology, which means that the moratorium would be flexible and could be changed by the government at any time.
Cullen has a history of trying to bring a tanker ban to the North Coast dating back to 2010 when he put forward a motion in the House of Commons. The motion passed 143-138 but it was non-binding.
Then in 2014, he proposed a private member’s bill to prohibit the transportation of oil on the North Coast without the inclusion of any potential amendments. However, Bill C-628 was defeated in April 2015.
One similarity between Cullen’s bill and what the federal government is planning to legislate is that there is an exception to the law. Small oil traffic will be allowed to continue to coastal communities, such as Bella Bella and Haida Gwaii, to re-supply heating oil and fuels.
Garneau added that the government is also undertaking a $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan to increase marine safety and the ability to respond to a spill. This announcement came at the heels of a diesel spill near Bella Bella in late October.
“A very key element of that is that the Coastal First Nations will be involved as part of that process so that we can take advantage of the skills and the experience and the local knowledge that they can bring to responding and monitoring our coast to ensure that they are as safe as possible,” Garneau said.