Protecting Central Burrard Inlet's Sensitive Marine Habitat
For the past 18 months I have been engaged in on-going correspondence with Kinder Morgan Canada (KMC) and, more recently, with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) regarding emergency preparedness planning for the protection of Central Burrard Inlet in the event of an oil spill. Council and I have had a good deal of feedback on the KMC expansion proposal, and it is clear that many residents are concerned. Judging by the correspondence in the March issue of the Belcarra Barnacle, it appears that one resident imagines this is taking-up a great deal of municipal staff time. In fact it does not. I write my own letters and invite comments and suggestions on drafts from Council. I do not "take-up office staff time" by having staff draft my letters.
Burrard Inlet is a special place that is home to high-value public assets that include recreation, tourism, fisheries, and sensitive marine habitats. As such, emergency response plans (ERPs) for the Westridge Marine Terminal (WMT) and Central Burrard Inlet need to include strategies for both rapid response and containment of an oil spill, and concurrent habitat protection measures. This 'dual approach' is required because fugitive oil always escapes from primary containment booms, which necessitates deployment of secondary booms to protect sensitive marine habitat areas. This was one of the 'lessons learned' from the 2007 oil spill event at WMT.
Although WCMRC has a dedicated and professional staff, at present WCMRC is seriously under-resourced for its mandate to protect Burrard Inlet's public assets that have significant socio-economic and environmental values. WCMRC has a number of response vessels staged around Burrard Inlet, but under ideal conditions WCMRC is only able to muster two or three three-person response crews. A minimum of four three-person response crews are needed to ensure protection of Burrard Inlet's public assets: two crews to deploy primary containment booms around the spilled oil, and two crews to simultaneously deploy secondary protective booms around sensitive marine habitat areas. As a consequence, WCMRC's current personnel resources are insufficient for the existing level of shipping activity in Burrard Inlet, let alone the anticipated increase in WMT tanker shipments. KMC needs to ensure that WCMRC has sufficient in-house personnel to guarantee a comprehensive response for the proper protection of Central Burrard Inlet's sensitive marine habitat and wildlife resources.
In considering the risk of oil spills at WMT, it appears that KMC is overly focussed on the risks associated with the movement of oil tankers, and hasn't given adequate consideration to risks due to 'unanticipated events' –– most of which are the result of 'human error' –– the definition of an 'accident'. There is a much greater likelihood of an oil barge being towed from Imperial Oil Company at Ioco breaking its towline and colliding with a tanker being loaded at the WMT facility. Or a freighter coming from Pacific Coast Terminals in Port Moody losing power and colliding with the WMT facility. Or a vessel at anchor in Central Burrard Inlet breaking-free of its mooring due to high winds down Indian Arm during an Arctic-outflow event and crashing into the WMT facility. Or an earthquake that causes one of the Burnaby Mountain geologic faults to rupture Trans Mountain's pipeline resulting in oil flowing into Central Burrard Inlet. Or, as was the case in the 2007 oil spill incident, a third-party contractor damaging Trans Mountain's pipeline resulting in oil being spilled into Central Burrard Inlet. It most likely will be the 'unanticipated event', with an unquantifiable risk, that will result in an oil spill in Central Burrard Inlet. It is the 'unanticipated event' that underscores the importance of having an emergency response plan prepared and operationally ready for the protection of the environmental and socio-economic values of Central Burrard Inlet.
With the assistance of Council, I personally have been drafting Belcarra's submission to the National Energy Board (NEB) in anticipation of the up-coming public hearings regarding the TransMountain Expansion Project (TMEP). Despite concerns cited in the March issue of the Belcarra Barnacle, Council has no intention of spending money on hiring somebody to represent Belcarra at the NEB hearings. This point was made several times at recent Council meetings. Rather, it will be the undersigned who will make the presentation to the NEB if Belcarra is granted 'Intervenor' status.
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