Exxon Valdez anniversary sparks renewed pipeline debate in B.C. – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – March 27, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

National Resources Minister Joe Oliver courts controversy with blanket claim that Exxon Valdez-type spill could never happen here.

OTTAWA—It was 24 years ago this past Sunday that the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska.

But from the northwest coast of British Columbia to the House of Commons, the tanker spill is being debated anew. Could it happen here? Not a chance, says the country’s natural resources minister, Joe Oliver. Opposition leaders and critics from the west coast say Oliver is making a claim of enhanced maritime safety that is all spin and little substance.

And British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations marked the anniversary with a dramatic television ad, complete with Simon and Garfunkel sound track and radio transmission from the tanker, airing explaining what would happen if a Valdez-style tanker spill occurred in this country.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government continues to blanket the airwaves with an ad of its own, part of a $9 million natural resources advertising campaign to tout its environmental record, featuring a mother and son walking along pristine coastline.

It is all part of Canada’s other pipeline battle. While the Keystone XL is attracting the most media and political attention at the moment — including a White House intervention Tuesday by Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter — the $6.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline is the Conservative government’s route to Asia, via supertankers, from Kitimat, B.C.
Oliver is adamant that an Exxon Valdez-type spill can never happen in Canadian waters.

“It cannot happen here,’’ he told me, flatly. “The factors which led to the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska cannot be repeated in Canadian waters. Our rules require that all tankers be double-hulled, have pilots on board, be escorted by tug boats, possess advanced (and working) navigation equipment and rely on up-to-date charting and GPS.
“None of those factors were present with respect to the Valdez accident.’’

He also says his government is building a world-class emergency response system and maintains there has never been a major tanker spill in this country.

The latter assertion conveniently ignores the 1970 Chedabucto Bay spill in which 9,370 tonnes of fuel were spilled, coating 120 kilometres of the Nova Scotia coast line, albeit more than 40 years ago.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/03/26/exxon_valdez_anniversary_sparks_renewed_pipeline_debate_in_bc_tim_harper.html

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