‘The Greatest Threat to the B.C. Environment in our Lifetime’

Black Press chairman David Black talks about why he wants to build a refinery in Kitimat, and why oil bitumen cannot be exported to Asia.

My name is David Black. I am the majority owner of Black Press, the company that owns this newspaper. This is the first of two columns addressing what I see as the greatest threat to the B.C. environment in our lifetime. I am a reasonably sensible and conservative businessman, not an alarmist. All of the information in this column can be confirmed from public sources.

The oil industry wants to export Alberta bitumen to Asia via tankers. Under no circumstances should we allow that to happen. A bitumen spill at sea could destroy our coastline, together with the fish and wildlife that depend on it, for hundreds of years.

Bitumen, even if it is diluted, does not float in sea water if there is sediment present. This has been proven many times, most recently in a thorough Environment Canada study published on November 30, 2013. Page 51 of the study provides graphic evidence of sunken bitumen.

Given that there is an abundance of sediment along the B.C. coast, the bitumen will sink rapidly and there will be little chance of recovering any of it if there is a spill.

By Northern Gateway’s own admission, the likelihood of a bitumen spill at sea is over 10 per cent over the next 50 years. Others say that it is much higher. We are in agreement with the position taken by the Coastal First Nations that even the slightest risk of a spill of bitumen at sea is unacceptable.

The grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 is often held up as an example of how bad an oil spill at sea can be. However, a spill of bitumen at sea would be much worse.

The Exxon Valdez carried light crude and lost 250,000 barrels, one eighth of a tanker load. The light oil floated and could be removed from the beaches. Even so, after four years of work with up to 11,000 workers and 1,400 boats involved, less than 10 per cent of it was recovered. Roughly 200,000 birds and many kinds of other wildlife were killed. Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were affected and the fishery has yet to fully recover. Bitumen is very different. It would harden up on shore and much of it would sink to the bottom, making it unrecoverable and killing virtually everything with which it came in contact. Imagine if we lost a full tanker load.

Some say that, with GPS-based navigation and double hulls, spills such as Exxon Valdez are not possible today. They are wrong. Double hulls do not prevent hull fracture if there is a collision at speed, only if there is a gentle scrape. As for the GPS claim, most marine accidents are caused by human inattention, not by a lack of knowledge about position. All ships carried systems to indicate their location before GPS came along. The Exxon Valdez crew could have glanced at their instruments to determine their location but they didn’t; neither did the crew on the Queen of the North.

Marine disasters regularly occur and a quick search of the Internet shows human error is most often the problem. Undoubtedly, there will be many more marine accidents in future. Our grandchildren will not thank us if we willingly risk the destruction of the BC coast on our watch.

Fortunately there is a solution that is beneficial for all concerned: all we have to do is build a refinery at Kitimat. The refinery will convert the bitumen to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, which float and evaporate if they are spilled. Often little or no spill remediation is required. These refined fuels simply do not cause the habitat destruction of conventional or synthetic crude oil, or anywhere near the devastation caused by bitumen.

The second part of this op-ed will run in the next issue in print, and online here. It will discuss the enormous value-add benefits and environmental advantages of a modern green refinery.  The pipeline from Alberta and the tanker fleet to export the refined fuels will also be considered.

Let me declare my biases. I am for creating thousands of good permanent jobs in B.C. I am for creating billions of new tax dollars for government coffers. I am for reducing the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. I am for building an oil pipeline that will never leak. I am for building a modern tanker fleet that carries only refined fuels that float and evaporate if spilled. I am against shipping bitumen in tankers.

If you agree that we should not put bitumen in tankers please contact your local MP and say so. The Canadian government makes a decision on this next month.

– David Black

 

Just Posted

Port Alberni soapbox derby has new track

Lower Argyle Street will be open to racers under six

Vehicle catches fire near China Creek Marina

No injuries in blaze, according to witnesses

North Island College issues brief statement on bomb threat

Threat forced college to close all campuses for one day

Premier wades into fishery closure debate

John Horgan questions the federal government’s approach

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Non-union construction industry fears exclusion in B.C.

Premier John Horgan imposes ‘project labour agreements’ for public works

Trump, Putin sit down a bit late for closely watched summit

Trump and Putin arrived Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit.

In TV interview, Trump claims queen called Brexit ‘complex’

Asked the queen’s view on Brexit, Trump said: “She said it’s a very complex problem.”

Exotic corpse flower begins to emit its putrid scent at Vancouver conservatory

A unique and exotic tropical plant, acclaimed for its size and abhorred for its smell, is blooming at a Vancouver conservatory.

CREA reports June home sales down 10.7% from year ago, but up from May

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in June were down 10.7 per cent compared with a year ago.

Tens of thousands give heroes’ welcome to Croatia team

Euphoria gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after their national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final.

VIDEO: Firefighters put out brush fire in Nanaimo

Fire broke out in the area of a new development under construction in East Wellington

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Most Read