There's a glimmer of hope that, finally, somebody may torpedo Stephen Harper's fetish to run an armada of supertankers through British Columbia's coastal waters. That "somebody" would be the Americans whose Alaskan and Washington State marine environments could be hard hit by a bitumen supertanker disaster.
While we await a report from the U.S. Coast Guard, a 153-page report from the emergency response division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is raising a lot of questions.
The study examined the different ways to transport Alberta's bitumen, a molasses-like crude oil, over U.S. land and water. Those included rail, the proposed Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver, the Keystone XL line to Texas from Alberta, and Northern Gateway.
"Most oilsands products are transported to market via existing and proposed pipelines; however, a sharp increase in the use of rail and marine transport can be expected while new pipelines are constructed to match the increased production of oilsands products," the report says.
It was written by six experts at the University of Washington and supervised by Prof. Robert Pavia of the university's School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.
"While there are many arguments about the level of risk, no one believes the risk is zero," Pavia told The Canadian Press, adding that he was speaking personally. "In my mind it's not a question of whether a spill will occur, but how well-prepared we are for a spill once it does occur."
"Little research is currently available regarding the behaviour of oilsands products spilled into water, and how they weather in the environment," the report says.
"Most tests have been conducted in the laboratory, so predicting the actual behaviour of oilsands products for a range of spills is difficult." The risks associated with carrying oilsands products over water "are not well-defined."
"Current capabilities to detect and recover oil when it sinks or is suspended in the water column are poor."
In case you can't guess, Enbridge has already dismissed the NOAA report as all wet. The pipeline operator wishes to assure Canadians and, especially, British Columbians that we can trust them as have so many other states and municipalities - to their peril.