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Liberal MP tables new attempt at BC tanker ban

Federal opposition parties passed a non-binding resolution banning crude oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast last week. Now a private member’s bill aims to move beyond symbolism.

“We cannot allow what happened with the Exxon Valdez in Alaska or the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico to happen in British Columbia,” reads a press release from Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray, who tabled Bill C-606 Tuesday.

The private member’s bill, if approved, would prohibit crude oil tanker shipments in the waters around the Queen Charlotte Islands.

It would effectively kill Calgary-based Enbridge’s plans to build a pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to coastal Kitimat and then ship fossil fuels on supertankers to Asian markets.

A moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic in the Hecate Strait and Douglas Channel region was enacted under Prime Minister P.E. Trudeau in 1972. But its current legal standing is ambiguous.

Federal opposition MP’s passed a resolution voicing approval for a renewed moratorium last week. Green groups were quick to praise Murray’s private member’s bill Tuesday.

“Last week’s vote proves that a majority of our Members of Parliament support a legislated tanker ban on our Pacific North Coast,” said the Dogwood Initiative’s Eric Swanson in a release. “Ms. Murray’s bill gives us clear, unambiguous legislation to protect B.C.’s fishing and tourism industries, in line with what coastal communities and First Nations have already declared.”

Some media commentators are now speculating it might make more environmental sense to ship oil sands crude to the west coast by train.

“CN is said to be looking at the prospect of building a pipeline on rails – that is, transporting up to 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day in unit trains to the terminal at Prince Rupert,” wrote the National Post’s John Ivison earlier this month.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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