Calls Grow for Detailed Evacuation Plan in Case of Trans Mountain Oil Spill

Health and climate advocates are urging British Columbia to develop a credible evacuation plan in the event of an oil spill in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project begins operations.

in a letter dated May 8 and addressed to British Columbia Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, environmental advocacy organizations, along with councilors from Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Moody, Party co-leader Green Canada, Elizabeth May, and prominent environmentalist David Suzuki. They warn that there are no safety measures to protect lives and human health in the event of an oil spill.

Trans Mountain has published emergency response plans for its pipeline and terminals, but because a spill in Burrard Inlet would involve multiple jurisdictions, a “Greater Vancouver Integrated Response Plan” has been developed. That plan details how initial assessments of marine spills would be conducted, reported and communicated. But according to the letter’s signatories, it is up to the British Columbia government to clarify responsibilities specifically.

“The human health assessment, accepted by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO), states that local health authorities will coordinate with other agencies to carry out all necessary emergency response tasks, including evacuations,” reads the letter. “However, the responsibilities and processes for these life-saving tasks, what resources are required, and who has the capacity to do the work have not been clarified.

“The authority to protect the public from a marine spill in these waters rests with the BC EAO.”

The $34 billion pipeline expansion project nearly triples the amount of oil flowing from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, where it is then loaded onto ships for global markets. Trans Mountain says its Westridge Marine Terminal can handle 37 Aframax-class tankers per month. Those tankers will be loaded in Burnaby and pass through Vancouver before leaving Burrard Inlet.

Using estimates from Transport Canada’s emergency response guide, the signatories write that if an Aframax tanker, which can carry up to 600,000 barrels of oil, were to spill two-thirds of its cargo and only 0.5% reached shore, it would be necessary to evacuate 25,000 people. If the oil caught fire, that number would increase to more than 100,000 people who would need to be evacuated.

Screenshot of a map showing possible evacuation zones, where red refers to areas that would need to be evacuated in the event of an oil tanker spill, and red and yellow refer to areas that would require evacuation if would cause a fire.

“Mass fire and smoke-related casualties would be expected, along with hospitalizations for cardiorespiratory conditions and skin exposure to carcinogens for those who join the initiative. [the cleanup] and contact the spilled diluted bitumen,” the letter reads. “The harms, including mental health impacts, could be present for years to come.”

“Mass casualties related to fire and smoke would be expected, along with hospitalizations for cardiorespiratory conditions and skin exposure to carcinogens for those who join the initiative. [the cleanup] and contact the spilled diluted bitumen.” #TMX

It is a real possibility. A little over a year ago, a The Aframax tanker exploded in Malaysia, killing three crew members.

The letter says a “human health assessment” conducted for the Trans Mountain expansion project states that local health authorities will coordinate to carry out necessary emergency responses, including evacuations. But to date, there is no clarity about who is responsible for what, which could create jurisdictional chaos that puts people in danger.

The letter also urges the British Columbia government to tell the federal government not to allow any Trans Mountain tankers through the Vancouver Straits until a credible plan is established to protect people from oil spills.

Heyman’s office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

“In addition to the expansion of the fossil fuel industry in a climate emergency that exacerbates health damage caused by wildfire smoke, extreme heat and flooding, I have major concerns about the health risks and safety from a potential tanker spill for patients living in this region.” said Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and president of the Canadian Association of Environmental Physicians, in a statement. “The lack of a viable plan to protect us from a significant increase in tankers carrying highly flammable and explosive cargo right next to our neighborhoods is unacceptable.”

The president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that in the face of a climate emergency, “we are gravely concerned about the environmental impacts of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.” ” including both planet-warming greenhouse gases and threats to marine ecosystems.

Vancouver County. Pete Fry said in a statement that the risk of tankers spilling oil is an “unacceptable risk” given that the city does not have the capacity for a plan to evacuate tens of thousands of people. At the same time, even in modern North American ports accidents occur, he said.

“Just a few weeks ago, we witnessed with dismay as a container ship lost power, crashing and destroying one of Baltimore’s major bridges, claiming half a dozen lives and closing one of the busiest shipping lanes in the United States,” he said. . “That container ship was only slightly longer than one of the Aframax tankers, which are now expected to leave the Trans Mountain terminal loaded with crude oil 34 times a month.”

The federal government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline project for $4.5 billion in 2018 from Kinder Morgan and has said publicly that it intends to sell the pipeline back to the private sector now that construction is complete. Experts say Ottawa is likely to suffer a significant loss on the project if it sells the pipeline, given the huge cost overruns.

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