Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Tankers sailing into Kitimat

Tankers sailing into Kitimat
Environmentalists claim ban being violated
Christina Montgomery, The Province
Published: Sunday, June 03, 2007

Transport Canada has confirmed that, since January 2006, 14 tankers have sailed through the area covered by a federal tanker-traffic moratorium to deliver condensate -- a toxic solvent headed for Alberta's tar sands -- to Kitimat.

The traffic, which environmentalists call a violation of the 35-year ban on tankers in most B.C. waters, is expected to increase significantly should approval be given to a proposal by Enbridge Gateway Pipelines to build an oil-export line from Alberta to a new marine terminal in Kitimat.

On the heels of an accord on climate change and healthy oceans signed Thursday by Premier Gordon Campbell, a coalition of environmentalists is calling on him to respect the federal ban.

In the late 1980s, Victoria and Ottawa were considering lifting the oil-tanker and oil-exploration bans on the west coast when the Exxon Valdez, shown here being towed out of Prince William Sound in Alaska, ran aground putting an end to thoughts of ending the moratoriums.

A climate-action agreement signed with great fanfare Thursday by Campbell and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pledges the two to develop marine protection areas off their coasts.

"Our planet, our province and our coastal communities depend on the health of the shared Pacific Ocean," Campbell said as he signed.

The coalition -- including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Living Oceans Society, the Dogwood Initiative and the West Coast Environmental Law Society -- is now arguing for continued enforcement of the "marine protection area" that it says already exists through the moratorium.

Graham Currie, spokesman for the provincial Ministry of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Province Friday B.C. is in compliance with the moratorium because it is aimed at "oil-tanker traffic transiting the B.C. coast, not at oil tankers sailing to or from B.C. ports."

The province has received no complaints from Ottawa about present traffic into Kitimat, he added.

Province calls Friday to federal Minister of Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn were referred to the office of Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon, who has argued that only one voluntary "tanker exclusion zone" has been agreed to -- and that it applies only to laden tankers heading south between Alaska and Juan de Fuca Strait.

Both political positions have infuriated environmentalists, who are also angry that Campbell has been pressuring Ottawa to lift its ban on offshore drilling.

"There has been a de facto policy moratorium since 1972. It's been respected by eight prime ministers," said Charles Campbell, whose Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative has collected 3,500 signatures supporting the moratorium.

"There is now pressure to allow tankers through our coastal waters -- and all of a sudden, we're being told that this [moratorium] never existed," Campbell said.

"If they want to see tankers [on] our coast, they should stand up publicly and say so, and initiate a public consultation process."


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