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After taking more than $700,000 in donations from Kinder After taking more than $700,000 in donations from Kinder Morgan and  There is no such thing as world-class oil spill response, prevention and recovery.  Tweet This!

 partners, Christy Clark approved the company’s pipeline project — a As we have stressed repeatedly, there is no such thing as world-leading or world-class oil spill response, prevention and recovery. The existing yardstick is wholly inadequate as estimates of open-water recovery by mechanical equipment are 10 to 15 per cent of the oil from a marine spill, at best. As we have learned from previous spills, no response is possible in rough weather, high seas and dangerous conditions. Importantly, these conditions often precede, or follow, oil spills. Pumping and skimming recovery options are ineffective in over one knot of tide or in waves and choppy waters. In rough conditions or offshore spills, response is limited to the use of dispersants, as containment is not an option. Dispersants have proven to be largely unsuccessful on water-in-oil emulsions and on oil that has weathered, and will not likely be successful on diluted bitumen. Furthermore, reliable knowledge regarding the extent of dispersant toxicity is lacking.

The Canadian Coast Guard has also identified the uncertainty around the effectiveness of spill response for the diluted bitumen that Kinder Morgan plans to transport from Alberta’s oil sands. In its submission to the joint review panel assessing the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, the coast guard stated it was “not aware of a scientific consensus regarding how these products will behave once introduced into the marine environment or the effects over time of the products being in the water. The Canadian Coast Guard therefore is uncertain whether or not traditional oil spill recovery methods would be effective.”

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The coast guard’s fear that diluted bitumen could submerge or sink has been reinforced by top chemical scientists in a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study. (Parenthetically, the aforementioned study was capriciously refused into evidence for the Trans Mountain federal review by the National Energy Board). But this would not be the only impact of a diluted bitumen spill. If a slick hits the water, it would immediately release dangerous components that are toxic to fish and animals. No technology can recover those volatile components. The bottom line on the B.C. coast, as has been shown elsewhere, is that arriving on the scene within the NEB-mandated 36 hours does not necessarily translate into effective cleanup of an oil spill.

With grossly overstated oil spill response capabilities revealed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, it was evident that improvements to oil spill technology have been negligible. Responders in the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill indicated that cleanup technology was no further ahead than in the 15 years previous. Responders in the Deepwater Horizon spill claimed that cleanup technologies were essentially the same as in the Exxon Valdez spill. Thus, despite some minor improvements, oil spill recovery remains largely unchanged over the last three decades. Notably, the spill response in these situations was nothing like what had been promised by the oil companies.

Another reality of so-called world-class response and prevention is the fact that human failures account for up to 80 per cent of the world’s oil spills. State-of-the-art navigation does not compensate for human error. Major oil spills show that despite assurances of low risk and advanced technology, poor decisions still lead to major incidents. Groundings, collisions, equipment failures and explosions are all cited as causes for accidents, but these are consequences, not causes. Root causes of incidents are more insidious, with human error and miscommunication foremost among them.


This article was first published at the Vancouver Sun, 2017, February 9th: http://vancouversun.com/opinion/opinion-christy-clarks-five-conditions-con that puts the health and safety of British Columbians in jeopardy. After taking The battle lines are drawn — in some cases literally. On one side are those reaping massive profits from fossil fuels, determined to extract and sell as much as possible before the market dries up. On the other are those who see the amazing potential of energy conservation, renewable energy and other innovations to reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, ecosystem destruction and exploitation of valuable non-renewable resources.

Despite international initiatives like the 2015 Paris Agreement, based on decades of research and evidence from around the world about human-caused global warming, those who would risk human health and survival for short-term profits from a destructive sunset industry appear to have the upper hand — for now. The election of a U.S. president and vice-president who deny the very existence of anthropogenic climate change and who have appointed likeminded people and industry executives to key positions illustrates how entrenched those committed to outdated, albeit still profitable, energy sources and technologies are.


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han $700,000 in donations from Kinder Morgan and their industry partners, Christy Clark approved the company’s pipeline project — a move that puts the health and safety of British Columbians in jeopardy. their industry partners, Christy Clark approved the company’s pipeline project — a move that puts the health and safety of British C

fffolumbians in jeopardy.

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