WATCH: Controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline will mean a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic along Vancouver Island and critics say that could devastate endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Tess van Straaten reports.
There are growing fears conditional approval for the controversial expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline could put the USD $144 million trans-border whale watching industry at risk.
“One thing we all agree on is oil and water and whales don’t mix,” says Michael Harris of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
The contentious $6.8-billion Trans Mountain expansion will triple pipeline capacity to 890,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen piped from oilsands near Edmonton to Burnaby for export — and mean a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in our waters.
“All it takes it one bad spill and we’ve got a population of orcas that are wiped out,” Harris says. “This is the number one most immediate threat to the long-time survival of the endangered Southern Resident community.”
Not a question of ‘if’ we’ll have a catostrophic oil spill, but when
The proposal would increase the number of tankers in our waters from about five a month to at least one every day, raising concerns it won’t be a question of ‘if’ we have a spill, but when.
“This is a bad decision by the National Energy Board,” former Liberal environment minister David Anderson says. “Bitumen is not a product that if there is a spill, will sink to the bottom — at least about 50 per cent of it will sink to the bottom and you cannot recover bitumen underwater.”
Anderson, a long-time cabinet minister and Member of Parliament for Victoria, says the NEB process was flawed and didn’t weigh the huge environmental risk for what could be little gain.
“There really isn’t a great market for Canadian bitumen on world markets so this is not going to be the lifeline for Alberta’s economy people talk about,” Anderson says. “The concern is what it will do for our coast and the concern should be taken into account.”
And it’s not just the risk of a spill, the latest research say acoustic interference from tankers could impede the whales’ ability to communicate and find food.
“We looking at a seven-fold increase in the acoustic inputs of these freighters and tankers and all these ships that are going to be coming in and out of orca country and that will have a huge impact.”
The Trudeau government is set to make a final decision by the end of the year.