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North Coast town council asks BC municipalities to stand against oil tankers

While the possibility of more oil tankers transiting the British Columbia coast may not seem like a province-wide municipal issue, councilors from BC’s north coast are working hard to make it one.

Representatives of the Village of Queen Charlotte have brought two resolutions to the Union of BC Municipalities Convention that deal with bulk oil tanker traffic and the Enbridge pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta down to Kitimat to be put onto these tankers.

“We wanted to show opposition to this project, because as representatives of coastal communities, we looked at bulk oil tanker traffic and we looked at the export of crude oil through this corridor, and we looked at the risks, and they’re huge,” said Evan Putterill, who represents the communities of Sandspit and Southern Haida Gwaii for the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, “You can say one in a hundred, one in a million, that a tanker’s going to hit a rock and we’ll have another Exxon Valdez, but if that happens the way of life for coastal communities is compromised, it’s over.”

“There’s such a disconnect between the benefits of this project and the consequences, and coastal communities, we’re just not willing to accept it,” said Putterill. Both of the resolutions represent an all island stance, taken between First Nations and municipal governments on Haida Gwaii.

“We’re hoping that the other municipalities in British Columbia will stand together with us, and will see that the risks are unacceptable and the benefits are minimal,” said Putterill. The resolutions may not make it to the floor of the UBCM, since they are a ways down on the list of resolutions. Should they not be addressed this week during the UBCM Convention, they will be referred to the UBCM executive, who will make a recommendation.

Other coastal councillors have yet to take a public position. The town of Kitimat is an example of a community that’s divided over the oil pipeline. “Its divisive, we have both sides of the fence in our community: some people want jobs, some want environment, and council is officially wanting both,” said Randy Halyk, a District of Kitimat councilor.

“Our best bet is just to learn for now,” said Halyk, who indicated that Kitimat would not be endorsing any resolution related to tanker traffic during the UBCM.

As for a provincial position, BC Environment Minister Barry Penner clarified yesterday that the province will defer to the federal government when it comes to regulating tanker traffic on the BC coast.

“There is tanker traffic that comes in and out of our ports now, to service coastal communities, that’s how many of them receive their fuels that they require,” Penner told The Tyee.

“I’d have to defer to what the federal government has indicated in terms of clarifying what people term the moratorium,” he said.

While the Queen Charlotte resolutions make their way towards the floor of the UBCM, activists from Vancouver and Whistler did their part to raise the profile of tanker traffic and pipelines by protesting outside of an evening event for city councilors hosted by Enbridge.

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