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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coastal First Nation's Reaction to Transport Canada's Decision Allowing Super Tankers Carrying Tar Sands Bitumen to Navigate Within the Waters of their Member Nations Traditional Territories!

Art Sterritt Picture courtesy of Straight.Com
(Vancouver, Feb. 23, 2012) - Transport Canada's decision to allow Enbridge to use supertankers carrying oil to navigate the waters within the Traditional Territories of the Coastal First Nations is unfathomable, says Art Sterritt.

Sterritt, the executive director of the Coastal First Nations, says numerous safety issues, including treacherous passage ways, poor weather conditions and human error, were ignored or minimized by Transport Canada. “It is nonsensical to say there will always be residual risk in any project. This shocking decision means a disproportionate share of risk clearly falls on the people who live within the Great Bear Rainforest.” 

The decision is yet another way in which the federal government is unduly influencing the very flawed Joint Review Process on the Enbridge Project, he said. “It’s abundantly clear the government isn’t interested in what the public hearing process determines.”

The Coastal First Nations has been studying the potential impacts of tanker oil spills in the Great Bear Sea for the past eight years, Sterritt said. “We recently completed report “A Review of Potential Impacts to Coastal First Nations from an Oil Tanker Spill Associated with the Northern Gateway Project” that confirms a tanker spill would cause catastrophic economic, environmental and cultural damage.”

He said the report found that many of the response techniques identified by Enbridge, including booming around tankers to contain spilled oil, skimmers and booms used to remove oil, and re-direction to sensitive areas are similar to methods used during the Exxon Valdez cleanup. “The Exxon Valdez experience shows these response techniques were largely ineffective in containing and collecting spilled oil. These techniques resulted in the recovery of only 14% of the original amount of oil released from the grounding event.”

Costs related to damage caused by a major oil spill in the Great Bear Sea could reach as high as $23 billion, Sterrit said. “Oil tankers in the Great Bear Sea are a threat to our culture and a steadily improving coastal economy. The Coastal First Nations, along with our allies, will continue to take any actions that are necessary to stop oil tankers from traversing the Great Bear Sea.”

The Coastal First Nations are an alliance of First Nations that includes the Wuikinuxv Nation, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation working together to create a sustainable economy on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.


Art Sterritt
Executive Director, Coastal First Nations

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