The perception that shipping lines are working around what is widely believed to be a moratorium on tanker traffic along the coast, has Environmentalists and the local MLA just a little upset. Fearful of a fast one being pulled on them, they are looking for answers on the issue.
What seems to be at issue is the interpretation of Transport Canada edicts and governmental inclinations. Which seem to be a tad cloudy to say the least.
The Daily News provided details on the concerns of Gary Coons, the local MLA and what impact the current situation will have on the north coast.
‘SNEAKY' DENIALS OF TANKER BAN RILES NORTH COAST MLA
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News Front page story
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
North Coast MLA Gary Coons is siding with environmental groups who say there is a moratorium on tanker traffic in B.C. waters, despite a denial by both the provincial and federal governments that such a moratorium exists.
"There is a moratorium on oil and gas activities in B.C.'s offshore waters. That means there isn't supposed to be any exploration activity and tanker traffic along our coastline. Frankly, I find it disturbing that traffic has begun without even the most cursory of public discourse from the government," said Coons.
Coons spoke to the issue on the same day that the founders of Greenpeace and 200 others gathered in front of the B.C. legislature for a warm-up for what they are calling a summer of protest against petroleum tankers coming into the port of Kitimat,
"The moratoria have not been lifted, and they need to be for this tanker traffic to legally go ahead. If the moratoria are, indeed, going to be lifted, there must be debates on both the federal and the provincial levels, as well as consultation with the First Nations Peoples whose territories are affected by this change in policy," said Coons.
Transport Canada has repeatedly stated the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in the Hecate Strait is not the same as the exclusion zone for tanker traffic, which only applied to traffic moving from Alaska to the United States.
They deny the existence of a tanker traffic moratorium within Canadian waters.
"The exclusion zone is a voluntary process directed at U.S. vessels. It's not directed at vessels trading in Canada," said Ruth Casey, a spokesperson for Transport Canada in a previous interview.
She said the tanker exclusion zone - which covers the entire B.C. coast - was adopted voluntarily by the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards as well as the American Institute of Merchant Shipping in 1988 with the idea of keeping laden tankers to the west of the boundary in order to protect the marine environment and shoreline of B.C. should a tanker become disabled in transit.
A spokesperson for Enbridge, the Calgary-based pipeline company that is proposing a crude oil export terminal in Kitimat, also noted that oil products currently move in and out of the port of Vancouver and oil products move up and down the B.C. coast.
However, other experts have argued that government is attempting to re-write history - that in 1972, at the urging of David Anderson, the federal government imposed the moratorium on crude oil tankers travelling through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and the Queen Charlotte Sound, before an exploration moratorium was even considered.
Environmental organizations kicked up a fuss last summer, alleging the government had broken the traffic moratorium when a tanker carrying approximately 350,000 barrels of condensate - a mix of chemicals and petroleum derivatives used to dilute crude oil - entered B.C.'s Inside Passage bound for Methanex's marine terminal in Kitimat.
Coons said there is a lesson to be learned following the sinking of the Queen of the North.
Since the B.C. Ferries vessel sank March 22, 2006, the residents of Hartley Bay have been waiting for clean-up of the diesel that is believed to remain in the vessel's tanks and fears of a major leak persist.
"If governments are unwilling to act to protect the interests of communities like Hartley Bay in the event of a small spill like that caused by the sinking of the Queen of the North, how can the communities of the North Coast feel secure in the face of the possibility of a major spill?
"The sneaky approach both the federal and provincial governments have taken on the issue of tanker traffic doesn't inspire much confidence in their commitment to the environmental health of the North Coast," said Coons.