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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Oil spill in Gulf Proves the Need for an Oil Free Coast in British Columbia

BC First Nations and environmental groups are calling on the federal government to implement a permanent ban on oil and gas development and tanker traffic on the North Coast of British Columbia, in light of the failed attempts to clean up the oil that is spewing from a sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The Living Oceans Society, with an office in Vancouver, in a statement released on April 29, commented on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and how it may impact BC oil exploration. Despite having the required safety mechanism on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, an explosion occurred, the technology to stop the oil from spilling in to the ocean failed, and the weather delayed the clean up efforts. “Over 30 years ago the federal and provincial governments prohibited oil and gas development and oil tankers on this coast because they knew that the threat of an oil spill was too great, a clean up too hard, and our ocean too valuable.” says Jennifer Lash. Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “Now the Enbridge Gateway project is threatening to bring over 225 oil tankers onto our coast every year putting at risk our whales, birds, fish, bears, and coastline.” In March 2010, 10 First Nations from the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii banned oil tankers from their traditional territories. “The First Nations governments have taken action to protect the ocean that supports our communities,” says Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations. “Now we would like to see the same leadership from the federal government.” The groups are pointing to the challenges of cleaning up the spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a grim reminder that failed technology and bad weather can make the impossible even harder. “They thought they could contain the spill off the coast of Louisiana but every day they appear to be having more challenges,” says Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy Campaigner of Forest Ethics. “Apparently oil rigs are ‘considerably safer for the environment than tankers’ – which isn’t much reassurance as we’re asked to risk our coast for Enbridge’s profits. An oil spill on our North Coast would be an imaginable tragedy.” Metro Vancouver is also not immune to oil spills. In 2007, a major oil spill forced residents of a Burnaby neighbourhood from about 50 homes, and raised serious environmental concerns. In 2009, a cruise ship admitted responsibility for an oil spill on the waters of Vancouver harbour near Canada Place.

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