OUT ON A LIMB: B.C.’s oil spill response woefully inadequate

Who would you trust least in responding to an environmental catastrophe?

The B.C. government is worried that it can’t respond properly to an oil spill on the west coast. Great.

A freedom of information request by Canadian Press obtained briefing notes written by B.C. Environment Ministry bureaucrats for a meeting in June, according to the Globe and Mail.

Environment Minister Mary Polak’s staff told her to say that the province is concerned that B.C. doesn’t have the capacity to respond to the current oil tanker traffic on the coast, never mind increasing it by 1,000 more tanker trips if the Northern Gateway pipeline is built. A spill on the coast currently would not be dealt with adequately – right now.

The way things work now, if there’s a spill, it’s up to the oil industry to provide the response. It’s the job of government officials to ensure that the response happens and to monitor it as it goes along. Now if that doesn’t give you chills, then I don’t know what would.

Who would you trust least in responding to an environmental catastrophe – the oil industry or the federal government? That’s a tough one, I know. Remember, the federal government has proven to be hostile to scientists and other bespectacled geeks in its employ.

The feds’ oil spill response capacity was cut back so much that it was reduced to being operated out of – get this – Quebec! The Vancouver operations were closed.

Picture the scene: “We need to consolidate operations, let’s see…who has the most coastline? Oh, that’s right B.C.! Let’s not put our response capacity there!”

Why do we never get these things right?

So, now it’s taken skulduggery by the media to ferret out B.C.’s admission that we (collectively – both the feds and the province) cannot respond properly to an oil spill on the west coast. It makes me wonder if that’s the reasoning behind Victoria’s seemingly tough talk regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline.

You’ll remember that Premier Christy Clark outlined five provisions that have to be met in order to receive British Columbia’s approval for the pipeline across central B.C. which would bring Alberta oil to a tanker port on the B.C. northwest coast.

Perhaps Clark was really pushing for funding for a better environmental response capacity for the B.C. coast because she knew what we have is woefully inadequate. One can only imagine how much a proper response would cost.

And this is just the coast. With a Northern Gateway pipeline we have to be concerned about a spill through some pristine natural environment in the north-central region of our province.

Well, we’ve got our handbasket, let’s pretend we’re Dorothy. The oil industry, Ottawa and Victoria can pretend they’re her counterparts. Who were they again? The Three Stooges…no, that’s not right.

Anyway, we can all hold hands and skip our way down the oil-slick road.