Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting unprepared for the next Exxon Valdez

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the federal government created six regional advisory panels of volunteer experts to :
  • advise on an adequate level of oil spill preparedness and response in each region; and

  • to promote public awareness and understanding of issues and measures with respect to preparedness.
"Their mandate is significant," reads the Transport Canada webpage, because :

"they are able to make recommendations on the full range of policy issues affecting regional preparedness and response, and may request information from Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard or response organizations on equipment placement, plans, resources, costs, training, exercises, or reviews undertaken of response operations, in pursuit of their mandate to advise and report on the adequacy of preparedness in the region."

Unless of course Transport Canada says they can't.

Over at the Tyee, Mitchell Anderson tells us the Pacific Regional Advisory Council on Oil Spill Response is being gutted:

  • Of the seven member panel, five new members replaced last year had to sign a "Letter of Expectation" limiting their meetings to only two half days per year "unless pre-approved by the Regional Transport Canada Office."

  • Their travel budget is restricted to attending those two half day meetings. So much for a mandate for research and "promoting public awareness"

  • They have been denied access to drafts of changes to marine oil safety regulations on spill response preparedness because Minister Baird regards them as too "confidential" ... but not apparently too confidential to share with an industry based group.

New RAC member Stafford Reid has "20 years of experience in marine vessel risk assessment and spill response preparedness. He served for 17 years as an emergency planning specialist for the B.C. government." Reid asks The Tyee's Anderson :

"how the government or industry can hope to have public buy-in on new oil spill regulations when the review process is not even open to the committee of experts who are charged under federal law with advising the minister, let alone coastal communities or First Nations."

Anderson : "What is puzzling is why, at the very moment that tanker traffic is poised to increase on the B.C. coast, Transport Canada has seemingly weakened Pacific RAC's ability to monitor the shaping of key regulations, advise decision makers all the way to the top, and communicate with a worried public haunted by images of the Gulf oil catastrophe."

No, Mr. Anderson, sadly it really isn't all that puzzling. They'd just get in the way.

Enbridge seeks nod for Pacific oil gateway

Enbridge has asked Canadian regulators for permission to build its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

The C$5.5 billion (US$5.2 billion) project would move up to 525,000 barrels a day of oil from Alberta to the port of Kitimat, British Columbia, giving Asia direct access to Canada's vast oil sands via tankers. The line would also be used to import condensate.
Enbridge has said it wants the Northern Gateway line in operation by 2016."

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