In 1988, beaches along the west coast of Vancouver Island,
between Uclulet and Tofino, were contaminated when oil swept
north from a spill in Washington State after the fuel barge
Nestucca collided and ruptured sending 890 tonnes of heavy
bunker C oil into the ocean. Then, in 1989, one of the worst
spills he world has seen occurred in Alaska when the Exxon
Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William
Sound, spilling approximately 11 million gallons of oil -
roughly equivalent to 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Unprecedented
levels of public outrage in B.C. and beyond, and fear of future
disasters, led the federal government to leave the moratorium
British Columbia’s offshore area includes four key
basins: Georgia, between the east coast of Vancouver Island
and the mainland; Queen Charlotte to the north, between Haida
Gwaii and the mainland; and Winona and Tofino, off the west
coast of Vancouver Island.
While the federal government has been considering lifting
its moratorium in the north, on the Queen Charlotte Basin,
the province wants the blanket moratorium lifted, which would
allow offshore oil and gas in the Strait of Georgia and off
the west coast of Vancouver Island.
A number of oil companies, including Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobile,
hold leases to the seabed in these
basins, which were issued by the federal and provincial governments
before the moratorium was instituted. One of the great unknowns
is just how much oil and gas would be found in B.C.’s
offshore seabed. In order to find out, ecologically destructive
seismic testing and exploratory drilling must take place.
Risking damage to an exceptional marine environment with untold
numbers of plant and animal species as well as jeopardizing
ancient First Nations cultures and jobs is nothing more than
In 2004, the federal government asked British Columbians
their views on the moratorium by conducting public hearings
and First Nations interviews. The public review involved the
participation of 3,700 individuals, many of who work and live
on the B.C. coast. Seventy-five percent of the participants
told the federal government that they wanted the moratorium
maintained. The First Nations review, which involved 70 nations,
found 100 percent support for maintaining the moratorium.
The B.C. government is ignoring the views of B.C. residents
and First Nations by pressuring the federal government to
lift the moratorium and open the coast to offshore oil and
gas exploration and extraction. We must work together to protect
the B.C. coast and coastal economy from this threat.
Offshore oil and gas development starts with seismic testing,
a process used to find oil reserves, which comes with significant
risk. This testing requires shooting high-pressure sound waves
into the ocean. Impacts from such extreme pressure include
the destruction of eggs and larvae, damage to fish with swim
bladders, such as rockfish, and disruption of migratory paths
of marine mammals. For more
info on the impacts of seismic testing click here.
Oil spills continue to be one of the greatest threats from
offshore oil and gas development. Research has shown the Exxon
Valdez spill of 1989 is still impacting the marine ecosystem.
In addition to spills and blowouts, the industry produces
drilling muds and produced waters, which flush poisons directly
into the ocean. A single production platform can drill 50
to 100 wells and discharge over 90,000 metric tons of drilling
fluids and metal cuttings directly into the ocean. What’s
more, one offshore rig emits the same quantity of pollution
as 7000 cars driving 50 miles a day.
Developing offshore oil and gas reserves will perpetuate
our dependence on fossil fuels, which is contrary to Canada’s
commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto
Protocol. It’s time to invest and encourage the development
of alternative energies, such as wind and solar power.
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