Oil Free Coast Oil and water don't mix. Keep British Columbia's coast oil free.
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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 in place.

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 reckless.

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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