Cullen rejects Transport Canada report downplaying Enbridge risk


Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says he is not surprised but also not convinced at Transport Canada’s findings yesterday that oil supertankers can safely travel in and out of the port of Kitimat.

“We clearly have a different threshold for the acceptable level of ‘residual risk’ these tankers pose to the marine environment,” Cullen said today.

“As I told the Enbridge Joint Review Panel last week, how realistic is it to believe that 15,000 supertankers will be able to safely travel the narrow Douglas Channel, let alone the Hecate Strait and devastating open ocean storms, over the life of the project?

“Accidents will happen.  While the risk may be small, the effects of a marine spill or leak are catastrophic, and are unacceptable to the people I represent and to 80% of British Columbians.

“Over 45,000 coastal jobs and dozens of rich northwest aboriginal cultures are at risk.  Piping bitumen to port is risky enough, after which tankers have to run a gauntlet of potential human and mechanical error, challenging channels, and the wild North Pacific.”

Cullen pointed out the width of Douglas Channel where supertankers would sail is only 1.35-kilometres, far narrower than the 10-kilometre channel width at the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.  He also pointed to research putting the number of marine vessel incidents along Canada’s Pacific Coast from 1999-2009 at 1,275.

“That’s over two per week, not what I or most people would call a residual risk,” Cullen said.

Cullen noted the value of BC commercial and recreational salmon fisheries and nature tourism is conservatively estimated at over $1 billion annually, an economy that no level of risk should be permitted to jeopardize.

Transport Canada yesterday filed its review of Enbridge’s proposed marine shipping routes to the regulatory panel weighing the $5.5-billion project, which would see Alberta crude shipped to the West Coast by pipeline and exported to Asian markets via a marine terminal at Kitimat.  The report found no regulatory concerns for vessels, operations, proposed routes, navigability, other waterway users and the marine terminal operations associated with the project.

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