B.C. spill response plans in limbo after Trans Mountain decision

The recent Federal Court of Appeal delaying approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project coast has put the B.C. spill response in limbo.  The proposed pipeline expansion project would see an oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.  The Federal Court of Appeal denied approval of the project pending greater consultation with indigenous communities and greater need for mitigating environmental risks.

The oil spill response plan, as part of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, is to build six new spill response bases along B.C.’s coast that would be the home port of 43 new spill response vessels and 120 new crew members.

Map of proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Configuration.

The oil spill response plan is to be funded, in part, from a $150 million that is to be collected by Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMR Corp.) from tolls for use of the expanded pipeline.  WCMR Corp. is an industry-funded organization tasked with responding to and cleaning up spills along B.C.’s coast.

When the project gets approval for construction is uncertain.  The federal government is considering a number of options including appealing the Court decision and enacting legislation.

The delay in building additional pipeline capacity from the Alberta oil sands has resulted ins an increase in rail shipment of oil.  More than 200,000 barrels of oil are now carried by rail in Canada each day, up from less than 30,000 in 2012.

In 2017, Canadian crude oil supply grew to 4.2 million barrels a day — exceeding total pipeline capacity leaving Western Canada. As a result, a record-setting volume of oilpatch output is now moving by rail to refineries in the U.S.

If the proposed spill response enhancements are built, the response to an oil spill on Canada’s west coast will be reduced from six hours to two hours for Vancouver Harbour and down from 18-72 hours to six hours for the rest of the coast.

The six bases would have been built in Vancouver Harbour, near Annacis Island in the Fraser River, in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, the Saanich Peninsula and Beecher Bay near Sooke.