Western Canada Marine Response Corp. launched the first of 40 vessels for the Trans Mountain expansion project on June 12 in Prince Rupert. (WCMRC photo)

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

Nearly $150 million in new bases, personnel and ships are on hold

Plans to build six new spill response bases along B.C.’s coast are up in the air after last week’s court decision to halt the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The six locations were part of a $150-million funding injection for marine safety that also included about 120 new hires and 43 new vessels.

The money was to be collected by Western Canada Marine Response Corp. from an impending toll on the expanded pipeline.

The corporation is an industry-funded organization tasked with responding to and cleaning up spills along B.C.’s coast.

READ MORE: WCMRC grows its fleet and spill response on the North Coast

But all of those plans are on hold now, according to its communications director Michael Lowry.

“We started working with Trans Mountain about five years ago on proposed enhancements for spill response on the coast,” said Lowry.

“So these enhancements have always been tied to the pipeline” by the National Energy Board.

Last Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeal shot down Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on the grounds of environmental risk and Indigenous consultation.

The decision found that the National Energy Board “unjustifiably defined the scope of the project under review not to include project-related tanker traffic.”

READ MORE: B.C. ‘very disappointed’ by court decision to not hear Trans Mountain appeal

This allowed the board to ignore any harm increased tanker traffic could cause to Southern resident killer whales along the B.C. coast.

The court’s ruling means that the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the feds will have to reengage with Indigenous groups.

Its decision effectively put the $150 million in spill response improvements on hold.

The proposed spill response enhancements, Lowery said, were meant to reduce response time from six hours to two hours for Vancouver Harbour and down from 18-72 hours to six hours for the rest of the coast.

“But based on the ruling last week, there’s some uncertainty on what the next steps are,” said Lowry.

“We’ve put a pause on the work on our bases.”

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.

The problem, Lowry said, is that several 25-year leases have already been signed.

“We’ve got leases in place with Port Metro Vancouver, the Fraser River, Nanaimo Port Authority and the Port Alberni Port Authority,” said Lowry.

“The next step for us was to proceed to issuing construction tenders. That’s paused right now.”

Lowry said that currently, the corporation won’t try to make any changes to those leases.

Instead, they’ll wait and see what happens with the pipeline expansion.

Some work has already started on the shipbuilding side.

“We have vessels being built in Prince Rupert, we have some being built down in Washington and we have some being built overseas,” he said.

“We can’t stop that work.”

READ MORE: Trans Mountain’s first oil spill response ship ready

Some of the new 120 planned employees have already been hired, Lowry said, but noted that they’ll keep their jobs because of the corporations phased-in hiring process.

“We’re bringing employees on based on the arrival of vessels so that we always have crew to man the new vessels,” he said.

“It’s certainly a bit of a balancing act.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna mayor outlines city’s economic, public health response amid COVID-19

The city announced a hold on hiring; 90 positions remain vacant and 64 have been laid off

New Kelowna business committed to growing B.C. beverage industry

Liquid Kudos connects BC beverage producers with new markets

Vernon, Kelowna denturists hit hard amid COVID-19

Okanagan denture clinics wonders if they’ll ever be able sustain the sting of pandemic

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission becomes a 56-bed shelter amid COVID-19 complications

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission outreach team will provide meals to those in need in the community

Kelowna production company keeps filming through COVID-19 pandemic

DCD Productions uses drones so crew can keep their physical distance

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Virtual physio connects patients with Okanagan practitioners

Many local physiotherapists are ready to assist, online

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Most Read