British Columbia is still looking for solid evidence of Northern Gateway's ability to provide world-leading maritime spill prevention and response following cross-examination at the hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in Prince Rupert.
"Unfortunately, we're just not satisfied with the level of detail that Northern Gateway representatives are providing, and that makes it difficult to judge whether they are meeting B.C.'s conditions for supporting the project," said Environment Minister Terry Lake.
During cross-examination by the Province, Northern Gateway representatives made it clear that the actual spill response plans required to assess Northern Gateway's ability to meet its commitments will not be developed until the project has been approved. That means, for instance, that Northern Gateway has not yet done a thorough analysis of the required spill response capacity. The company has committed to localized "geographic response plans" for spills, but only in the Douglas Channel and not along the entire tanker route.
Northern Gateway also continues to contend that diluted bitumen will not sink if there is a spill into a maritime environment. The question is important because of the implications for how difficult and costly a spill is to clean up.
Northern Gateway's statement that the spill response commitments go beyond Canadian requirements also highlights the need for the federal government to upgrade maritime regulations.
"I'm encouraged that Ottawa is working on closing the gap between current requirements and world-class response to spills," Lake said. "B.C. would like to see that done sooner rather than later. In the meantime, it's clear that further independent and expert analysis is required to understand what constitutes world-leading practice on the open seas."
The Province has concluded its cross-examination on maritime spill preparedness and response issues. B.C.'s cross-examination will continue when the Prince Rupert hearings move to environmental and human health risk assessment and then shipping and navigation.