NORTH Vancouver's Tsleil-Waututh Nation says a new report on oil tanker spill response proves the federal government isn't taking pipeline risks seriously.
Chief Justin George said this week the potential risks outlined in the report and the government's lack of attention to them are "unacceptable, given that they are deciding the fate of major projects and the fate of our communities."
George said the report proves the federal government is "asleep at the switch" when it comes to risks from oil tankers in Burrard Inlet.
George issued a press statement this week repeating the band's opposition to Kinder Morgan's pipeline project following the release Tuesday of a report into potential oil spill risks from the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Scott Vaughan.
The report found that current liability limits and insurance schemes meant to pay for environmental cleanup in the event of a spill "may not be sufficient to cover the cost of any major spill in Canadian waters" especially given the projected increase in tanker traffic on the west coast.
The result, said Vaughan, is taxpayers would likely be left paying for the remaining costs of any environmental damage.
The report noted Coast Guard environmental response plans haven't been regularly updated. It also noted tankers proposed in various pipeline plans ending on the west coast are much larger - in some cases 30 times larger - than those assumed in federal oil spill response plans.
In response to the report, Transport Canada stated it would conduct a review of the liability and compensation rules for oil spill cleanup, based on a risk assessment to be completed by fall of this year.
But that has done little to allay concerns of the Tsleil-Waututh, who have long been on record as opposing Kinder Morgan's plans to increase its Trans Mountain pipeline capacity.
Current plans could almost triple the current volume of 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 barrels a day, resulting in about 34 oil tankers a month heading out of Burrard Inlet from the company's shipping port in Burnaby, opposite Tsleil-Waututh land.
George said the First Nation remains opposed to the pipeline project because "we believe that it's not 'if' a spill will happen, but 'when'," he said in a press statement. ". . . And now we know that when a spill does happen, the planning and resources to clean it up are not adequate."
Vaughan's report noted that worldwide, tanker oil spills have decreased over the past two decades and are rare as a result of improvements in safety standards, modern navigation equipment and double-hulled ship construction.
But he also noted when spills do happen, they are expensive to clean up, pointing to a 2002 tanker spill off the coast of Spain that spilled 63,200 tonnes of oil and caused an estimated $1.4 billion in damage.
Carleen Thomas, a councillor with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said in the press statement the report from the environment commissioner should be a wake-up call to the people of B.C. and their political leaders.