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.

Just Posted

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

WATCH: Cops for Cancer bring message of hope to Langley school

Young cancer survivors are traveling with the fundraising bike ride.

Driver of pickup stolen from Langley crashes into car in Abbotsford

No serious injuries in collision on Monday night

VIDEO: Fort Langley paying homage to Vaughan

Russell Marsland and Lovestruck bring a tribute concert to the Chief Sepass Theatre on Saturday.

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Aldergrove soccer forward enjoys scoring spree

UFV Cascades’ Jhaj named Canada West second star of the week

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Most Read