Gulf Islanders have a vital stake in the current debate over the future of oil tanker traffic in BC’s coastal waters. A major spill in our area would be an environmental disaster.
While this is a complex issue that has ignited ongoing and wide-ranging political, business and environmental passions and opinions, the Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) is convinced that proposed pipeline capacity and tanker traffic increases pose an unacceptable risk for our islands.
GIA arranged a series of free public meetings in the Southern Gulf Islands in early 2014 to give islanders an opportunity to have their say about plans to quadruple the volume of Tar Sands oil shipped through the Islands Trust Area. These community meetings focused on the risk to our environment and wildlife and explained how you can best voice your concerns. Sponsored by the Gulf Islands Alliance, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Georgia Strait Alliance, these meetings preceded hearings by the National Energy Board into an application by Kinder Morgan to twin their pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby. GIA’s Misty MacDuffee, a marine biologist, is leading our campaign to keep our waters free of oil and other harm. Of proposals to convert our coast to an energy corridor for global shipments of tar sands oil, she says:
“Between Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal and Kinder Morgan’s (KM) Trans Mountain Proposal, 700 loaded tanker trips (one-way) could occur annually. KM wants to deliver 700,000 barrels per day to the Vancouver region by 2016 with tankers transiting the Fraser estuary, GulfIslands, Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits. In the hopes of not triggering a public review, KM is seeking incremental approvals for this increased capacity. Traffic could also come from loaded Northern Gateway tankers entering the Juan de Fuca for Cherry Point.
“The implications for the SalishSea region are enormous and the populace is being asked to bear the risks with virtually no public engagement. Our archipelago hosts wild salmon populations, migratory birds on the Pacific flyway, important estuaries, shellfish beds and the habitats of many rare, threatened or endangered coastal species including southern resident killer whales. The SalishSea is already suffering intense pressures from growth; chronic oiling and spills will only intensify the declining health of our ecologically fragile region. In saying ‘no’ to pipeline expansion, we are saying ‘yes’ to a different vision for our islands, coast and country.”
The pipeline-tanker file is one of GIA’s priority initiatives, consistent with the idea behind GIA’s reason-for-being as a non-profit grassroots group — to bring together like-minded people from across the Trust Area islands to speak with a strong, unified voice in support of the Trust object to preserve and protect our islands.
In December, 2013, GIA reiterated its support to Islands Trust for its “leadership in opposing the proposed expansion of oil tanker traffic…as well as shipping US coal through the SalishSea.
“The Salish Sea must not become a carbon corridor,” GIA said in a letter to the Trust. “In particular, the Trust should ensure it secures its role as an intervenor in the upcoming National Energy Board hearings on Kinder Morgan’s proposal.”
The Islands Trust jurisdiction over lands and waters that surround the tanker route command such status. This status should also extend to citizens within the Trust Islands who are equally affected by this proposal. Protecting democracy is crucial for protecting our environment. “We also suggest that Trust Council support the demand of several environmental groups to withdraw from the Equivalency Agreement between BC and the federal government. Such action would reclaim BC’s right to hold its own environmental assessment of Kinder Morgan’s expansion plans and other major energy projects.”
The Salish Sea must not become a carbon corridor.
The scope of these reviews could also be widened to properly assess upstream and downstream consequences not being considered by the NEB process.
In February 2014, GIA applied for commenter status at the upcoming NEB hearings. Here’s the text of GIA’s application:
“The Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) is a non-profit NGO formed in 2006 to protect BC’s Gulf Islands, their natural environments, rural nature, and unique cultures, for now and for future generations. We support the Islands Trust federation in achieving its legislated Object of preserving and protecting these unique Islands. Our organization draws its support from hundreds of individuals, families and communities that live throughout the Gulf Islands.Gulf Islands ecosystems are finite, threatened and in need of policies that offer greater protection for land and marine ecosystems.
“GIA supports and encourages the conservation of island landscapes, habitats, and native species. We advocate for new marine protected areas and the expansion of the proposed National Marine Conservation Area to safeguard marine features, processes and species in the Trust area. Kinder Morgan’s oil tankers must traverse the Gulf Islands to reach their Vancouver and international destinations. These islands, and the marine and coastal habitats they lie within, are directly affected by increased oil tanker traffic. As such, the interests of our organization are directly affected by this proposal, as they would be adversely affected in the event of an episodic oil spill, chronic oiling and/or air quality impacts that would accompany increased tanker traffic. Impacts to the ecological quality of this region have further consequences for the social and economic health of these rural island communities and their ability to support and accomplish GIA’s objectives.
“GIA plans to comment on the ecological risks, the known and the potential adverse effects of increased tanker traffic on species, habitats and ecosystems of the Gulf Islands that surround Kinder Morgan’s oil tanker route. This includes the adverse consequences from chronic oiling, episodic oil spills, and increased shipping. We will also consider cumulative anthropogenic effects which already adversely affect species within the proposed project area.”
After being granted ‘commenter’ status, GIA submitted the following on August 17, 2015
To the National Energy Board
Re: Application to expand Kinder-Morgan Pipeline Commenter Number A58491
In an earlier letter the Gulf Islands Alliance objected to the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline for reasons such as increased risk of spillage — which along with the perception that the NEB process is industry-biased — that have been voiced by the thousands of Canadians.
This letter focuses on an even more crucial issue: the NEB’s role, as seen in the Kinder Morgan process, in responding to climate change.
If we could imagine seeing the world from outer space or a future century, our age will be described as a time when humanity collectively shot itself in the foot. Maybe, in the heart. Because, in the pursuit of cheap and abundant fossil fuel energy, we made the climate unbearable for healthy life and the natural environment as we’ve known it.
In that distant assessment the culprits will be identified. Most of us will share the guilt, but those in positions of power and authority, including NEB appointees, who foster carbon fuel extraction, transport and consumption, will be blamed most.
The suggestion that consideration of climate change is outside the NEB’s mandate is a cop out. Energy and climate change are dance partners. Official blindness to this fact moves the agency into the same place of revulsion we have for soldiers who murder on orders from superiors. Moral law must trump contrary human law. To behave as if escalating fossil fuel use can be done safely perpetuates the lie that catastrophic harm isn’t being done.
The Gulf Islands Alliance is a non-profit, grassroots group that supports the ‘preserve and protect’ mandate of the Islands Trust Act. We see climate change as the greatest long-term threat to the Gulf Islands and the world beyond. We believe there comes a time when enlightened people of conscience and decency must stand up for our children’s future and the earth itself. That time is now. We beg you to do the right thing.