Sunday, May 06, 2012

Harper's Reckless Indifference to Inevitable Catastrophe

"But Skipper, the oil's 600-feet down"

It would probably take something of a mass insurrection to stop Stephen Harper's plans to transport toxic Alberta sludge through British Columbia's coastal waters.  A Victoria Times Colonist writer said we're up against the CPC - the Conservative Party of Canada, the Communist Party of China and the Calgary Petroleum Club - and they don't plan to let British Columbia stand in their way.

The Victoria paper's Sunday edition takes a look at the state of federal oil disaster response preparation on our coast and it's anything but assuring.

"Sheila Malcolmson, chairwoman of the Islands Trust, the land-use and planning agency for the Gulf Islands, said she has peppered the federal government with questions about oil spill response plans.

"'We are told that successful [spill cleanups] recover 10 to 15 per cent of the oil, so our first priority has to be advocacy around preventing spills in the first place,' Malcolmson said.

"'Then, the other area of concern is, when there's a spill, what is the capacity for cleaning it up? The more we learn about that, the more worried we are.'"

"Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell [wants] an analysis of crossborder spill readiness.
'It seems that Canada's oil spill response plan in the Pacific Northwest is to call the Americans,' Cantwell told a sub-committee hearing last year in Washington."

Cantwell appears to be referring to the only two ocean-going tugs capable of rescuing a supertanker that has lost its steering or engines.   They're positioned at Anacortes, Washington,  south of Victoria, several days steaming distance from the proposed tanker port in Kitimat.

Another article by the same reporter explores the fleet of oil spill response vessels and barges already positioned along the length of Vancouver Island.    The vessels belong to Western Canada Marine Response Corp.   But what's the point of having that equipment if you can't get it to the disaster in time?

Even with that stash, it could take WCMRC up to 72 hours, plus travel time, to assemble the equipment at the scene of a major spill - a time frame that exceeds Transport Canada standards."

But in coastal B.C. waters, an oil spill might actually be wishful thinking.   A report released by Pembina and the Natural Resources Defence Council in December contrasted dilbit - diluted bitumen - that Harper wants to ship out of BC ports with conventional crude oil.  It's like comparing apples and hand grenades.   Conventional crude oil tends to be broken up by wave action, provided it doesn't reach shorelines.   Bitumen, however, dumped into water congeals and sinks straight to the bottom.  It doesn't help that bitumen is also laced with acids, heavy metals and other toxins and carcinogens.

Oil booms probably won't do much bobbing on the surface while a supertanker load of bitumen rests on the bottom six hundred or more feet down.   And as for the 72-hours business, how long did it take the BC ferry, Queen of the North, to find its own way to a 600-foot deep grave when it had a run in with the treacherous rocks in that same area?  It was just a matter of hours, not days, not three days, not a week.   A few hours and it's over.

"Time lags are one of the many concerns the Dogwood Initiative has about spills, a conservation group running an anti-tankers campaign.

"Different kinds of ships come with different kinds of risks, and crude oil tankers come with virtually all the risks and no benefits for British Columbians, and especially Vancouver Islanders," he said.
Technology for dealing with a spill still comes down to shovels, buckets and cotton pads, [Dogwood spokesman Eric] Swanson said.

"Booms are only useful in calm seas, low winds and low waves," he said.

"And stuff like bitumen sinks to the bottom, so booms are no use."

The Times Colonist concludes its bitumen disaster expose with a look at the bottom line - money.  Again, Harper and the CPC gang are setting us up for a beating.

"Insurance is  ...compulsory for ship owners.

"Damage claims are funnelled through the Canadian Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund or the International Oil Pollution Fund.

"However, some critics believe funds in Canada do not have the depth to pay for cleanup of a major spill.

"'Once the ship owner runs out of insurance, he can legally walk away and say 'That's your problem, government,' " said Stafford Reid of EnviroEmerg Consulting Services.

"Reid, who wrote a report for the Living Oceans Society on marine vessel risks and response plans, said that in the case of an incident such as a major spill from a bulk carrier, the insurance money would likely last less than a week.

"In addition to the cost, the immediate worry in the case of a major spill would be how to clean up bitumen, which would likely sink below the surface, said Sheila Malcolmson, Islands Trust chairwoman.

"Bitumen is a thick slime of unrefined tar that is mixed with condensate, a toxic solvent, so it can move through pipelines.

"'There is no capacity to deal with oil sinking in the water. We have asked the federal government about the capacity to deal with a bitumen spill and we haven't had any reassurance,'  Malcolmson said.

"'You can't boom it and you can't skim it and you can't see it from the air.'

"Federal government spokesmen said research is being done into "non-traditional" fuels and Environment Canada is leading the investigation.

"The bitumen-cleanup question is also being studied in the U.S. where it came to public attention in 2010 after an Enbridge pipeline burst in Michigan and leaked about 843,000 gallons of bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River."

Oh that's grand.   Environment Canada, headed by rancid EnviroShill Peter Kent, is looking into "non-traditional" fuels.   They haven't got a clue how to deal with a bitumen dump on the seabed in the treacherous, stormy waters of northern B.C.   But they're going to look into it.   Yet, having no clue about what to do when one or more of those tankers goes down, they're hell bent on getting that pipeline built and tankers transiting those waters just as quickly as possible.

So the upshot of this is that the federal government has an oil spill agency, the Western Canada Marine Response Corp., a private company that has a fleet of vessels, barges and equipment to deal with oil spills but with no capability to deal with bitumen spills.   And most of that equipment is positioned where it would be days away from the most likely disaster areas, even if that equipment was somehow effective.   And Enbridge, it seems, will be using ship owners as liability cut-outs for bitumen disasters.   When the ship owner's insurance runs out the 3 CPCs - Conservative Party of Canada, Communist Party of China and Calgary Petroleum Club - express their condolences and summon the next tanker to the fueling dock.   And if any means of seabed bottom bitumen clean-up is discovered - a huge "if" - the British Columbian and Canadian taxpayers will be stuck with the tab.



Anyong said...

And that also goes for all the greedy American and other foreign companies operating in Fort McMurrary as well. Chemicals in our food, water and their any wonder why the cancer rate is up and up in this country. What else do we need?...oh yes!!...a pipe line to the coast of B.C. to further not give a dam about people who do these greedy companies and the governments dirty work.

kootcoot said...

Hey, no problemo, unless I'm mistaken all we need to do in case of a spill off Kitimat or in the Hecate Strait/Dixon entrance is call the clean-up co-ordination agency, being re-located in Montreal.....that's handy.

Look at it this way, maybe enough ships full of bitumen will sink off the north coast that in the future BeeCee can have its own tarry goo pits to exploit, once we learn how to extract it from the sea bottom...just think of it as a energy project being saved for a rainy day in the future, once the cowboys to the east have cleaned up that big ancient spill around beautiful Fort Mac.

Where's Weibo when we need him, after all, they have to get the pipeline over the Rockies before it is our problem. The strategy is clear as clear as the fascist gleam in Treason Steven's soulless eye spots!

The Mound of Sound said...

I find it encouraging that a centre-right newspaper such as the Times Colonist is starting to get on the same page as the centrists and centre-left in British Columbia.

It's only been recently that we've begun seeing more sophisticated reportage in the mainstream media. They're coming to understand the critical differences between conventional crude oil and bitumen or dil-bit that Harper wants shipped through BC's coastal waters. They're finally getting it that you don't siphon up bitumen spills that head straight for the bottom where they form persistent and deadly toxic sludge.

Once the public comes to understand what Harper is really up to I think there's going to be real unrest. Don't forget, that pipeline has to cross a lot of remote territory in Alberta before it even reaches BC. It's going to be challenging - and expensive - for Harper and Enbridge to defend that pipeline against attack.

I suspect there's plenty the BC government can do to thwart this deal. Harper knows that pushing this dooms his BC Liberal (in name only) government. So does the provincial NDP which has motivated them to come out 100% opposed to both pipelines.

kootcoot said...

"It's going to be challenging - and expensive - for Harper and Enbridge to defend that pipeline against attack."

And quite possibly, IMPOSSIBLE!

the salamander said...

Choose baby Choose ...

You either stand for Canada or for the lout pack that believed American electoral advisors and their Live/Robo/Call services were a great hire. Fire anyone who hires foreign companies to ensure their election.. or .. at the very least, request an affidavit explaining their rationale.

Before we even consider a regime and faux government's suggestions or standing on Environment or Resources, Pensions or Fisheries we need to judge their ability and right to even have such views.. much less power... ..

I recall approx ZERO of the spew and petro-fueled threats against Canada, coming from Stephen Harper .. being mentioned during his election promises.. or platform..

I challenge Joe Oliver to validate his beliefs to his local constituents.. much less to the rest of Canada.

Can someone please ask Peter Kent and Keith Hadfield and John Baird and Peter Mackay and Jason Kenney et al ad infinitum for a note from their mommy to be out without a minder or nanny ?