Liberals introduce oil-tanker ban bill

The bill would ban most tankers carrying crude oil along B.C.’s north coast

Canada’s transport minister recently introduced a law that would ban most oil tankers from the north coast of B.C. and Haida Gwaii.

The bill would prohibit oil tankers from carrying crude and ‘persistent oils’ as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations. Anyone who defies the ban could face fines of up to $5 million.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said the proposed legislation is the direct result of decades of hard work by northwest First Nations and communities to protect sensitive marine environments.

“Congratulations to everyone who has played a part in finally getting the federal government to understand the absolute need for a moratorium on tanker traffic and loading and unloading facilities at ports in northern B.C.,” said Cullen.

However, Cullen said “the devil is in the details,” saying the bill that is eventually placed before Parliament for a vote “must have the fingerprints of northwesterners all over it.”

“We’ll all be watching to make sure study of the proposed legislation is evidence-based and includes people in the northwest who understand the risks of tanker traffic and have the most at stake in seeing strong protection of our coastline,” he said.

Cullen said he looks forward to hearing expert testimony about the proposed bill, including testimony from people who live on B.C’s coast and Haida Gwaii.

Besides crude oil, the ban applies to a list of 14 persistent oils such as various bunker fuels, synthetic crude, slack wax and partially upgraded bitumen.

“They tend to sink, and there’s no way to remove them unless you do it manually,” explained Canada’s transport minister Marc Garneau. “We’re very concerned about those kinds in particular, because of their effect on the environment.”

If science later shows that more types of oil should be added to the ‘persistent’ list, Garneau said the bill allows for it. Likewise, he said oils could be removed from the list if new technology allows for their safe clean-up.

The proposed act does not ban bulk shipping of refined fuels that break up or evaporate in case of a spill such as gasoline, jet fuel or liquefied natural gas. Also, the proposed law exempts tankers that carry less than 12,500 metric tons of crude or persistent oil as cargo – an exemption intended to allow critical shipment of fuels, home-heating oil, and other goods to coastal communities and industries.