Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can we learn from our mistakes?

Today is the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. At the same time, the B.C. government is continuing to push a plan that would see tankers filled with Alberta’s dirty tar sand oil traveling past our beautiful wilderness, and travelling B.C. waters. We all know how dangerous these waters can be. An accident is inevitable and the repercussions would be catastrophic.

On March 24, 1989, the ExxonMobil tanker, the Exxon Valdez, struck a reef and in less than six hours it released more than forty million litres of crude oil into the pristine waters off Alaska’s shore. The oil eventually covered more than 3400 sq kilometres of ocean with devastating consequences. There was mass mortality of mammals and seabirds, including twenty two Orca whales, an estimated two hundred thousand seabirds and untold millions of fish. More than two thousand kilometres of coastline were contaminated with oil. Even today, tens of thousands of litres of oil remain on the shoreline and many animals – including Cormorants, Harbor seals and Pacific Herring – have not recovered.

The B.C. government is refusing to support a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in coastal waters like the Hectate Strait or our own inland passage. We all know how dangerous the coastal BC waters can be. It was just four years ago that the BC Ferry Queen of the North went down. Human error is inevitable and if oil tankers travel our waters it is just a matter of time before there is an accident – and that could result in millions of litres of oil washing up on our shores.

And yet, the government is pushing for the creation of a massive pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, just north of Vancouver Island. From there, the oil would be loaded onto tankers and begin their perilous journey.

All the First Nations in the area are unanimously opposed: the potential for a catastrophic accident is simply too great. Oil would be moved across pristine rainforest ecosystems, over one thousand streams and rivers. Most of the land endangered is traditional First Nations land. And then the oil would have to be moved through fragile ocean waterways.

To get a sense of what an accident would look like try to imagine hundreds of litres of oil washing up on Cordova Bay or Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Imagine the cost of cleaning this up. Imagine the impact on tourism and wildlife, on our health and on our quality of life.

To make matters worse, the BC government is cheer-leading a plan that is all about using Alberta’s tar sand oil. This is the stuff that Al Gore calls the ‘dirtiest possible alternative’ for producing fuel. The proposed pipeline would increase tar sands oil production by thirty percent. Tar sands oil creates three to four times more greenhouse gas emissions than regular oil.

The plan makes a mockery of the government’s climate change goals. At a time when we desperately need to control emissions and slow down global warming, this could not be a more irresponsible choice.

Please join me in letting the government know that you are opposed to this plan. Contact Premier Cambell at or (250) 387-1715.

You can also find out more information and contact Enbridge directly by visiting this website: