Research of oil, gas transport critical to navigating future VANCOUVER SUNSEPTEMBER 12, 2013Message 1 of 1 , Sep 12View Source
Research of oil, gas transport critical to navigating future
Ottawa's decision to start researching conditions related to heavy oil transport on B.C.'s coastline is a worthy one.
While the federal and B.C. Green parties last week depicted the federal thrust as an example of corporate freeloading by sponsors of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the initiative is an important one that will help all levels of government make final determinations on the feasibility of the $6.5-billion project.
Green leader Elizabeth May and Green MLA Andrew Weaver teamed up at a Victoria news conference to condemn the Harper Conservatives for prejudging work of a federal joint review panel.
The panel is not scheduled to make its recommendations on the pipeline and tanker port proposal until December.
Ottawa opted not to wait for those findings, spending $120 million to learn more about the behaviour in water of Alberta's molasses-like crude and to beef up monitoring of weather data in areas that stand to be affected by a spill.
It remains unclear, for example, what diluted bitumen does on entering water and how it is affected by prevailing wind currents.
It's worth noting this "dilbit" already is being transported in tankers out of Vancouver's port.
While May depicted the federal spending as "greasing the wheels" for Enbridge, the data surely will be crucial for bureaucrats and politicians determining risk levels the project poses and understanding what's involved in cleaning up a spill in the waterways associated with an as-yetto-be-built tanker port in Kitimat.
It is, after all, Ottawa, not the company involved, that has jurisdictional responsibility for marine transport off Canada's coastlines. And for setting standards governing oil-spill cleanups.
Information from the federal research will assist the Harper Conservatives in making their final determination on the Enbridge project, some time in early 2014.
The data will be useful as well for B.C.'s government, given that Premier Christy Clark has set, as one of five conditions for provincial approval, establishment of a world-class system for preventing and dealing with spills. (The province to date has rejected the Enbridge endeavour.)
It is in this same spirit of gathering knowledge and preparing that the Port of Metro Vancouver recently revealed it is creating a Centre for Excellence for oil and liquefied natural gas shipments, in hopes of becoming a "leading source of information on best practices for shipping Canada's energy and oil and LNG commodities on Canada's Pacific Coast."
Northern Gateway is promising jobs and prosperity for B.C. But British Columbians, in a succession of polls, have expressed concern about how Enbridge's plans would impact the environment.
Social licence for such an extensive project would be forthcoming only in the event the public believes that regulatory authorities are fully aware of all potential risks, and have the capacity to appropriately deal with them.
It therefore is encouraging to see that the authorities have begun taking steps to prepare themselves for the assortment of challenges that would lie ahead.