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Living Oceans reacts to federal government's tanker safety announcement

May 13, 2014

Living Oceans delivered a scathing rebuke of the federal government’s announcement today on tanker safety. 

“Most of this is not news,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director. “What is new is bad news for taxpayers.”

Far from the polluter-pay scheme that the government’s expert panel had recommended, this announcement makes it clear that only existing compensation funds will be available for a spill. The total, about $1.6 billion, would suffice for the small and medium-sized spills that will occur from time to time; but a major spill would cost on the order of $10 billion in economic loss and spill response.

“To make it worse, the funds available are mostly our tax dollars, anyway,” said Wristen. “The last time the industry paid any levy toward compensation funds in Canada was 1976.” Taxpayers have been paying interest on the funds levied, ever since that date. “Now they’re talking about bringing back a levy only when our money runs out—that’s not much of an incentive to the oil companies to make sure they’re dealing with reputable carriers whose ships are well-maintained and operated.”

The other piece of bad news is that the government will permit the use of chemical dispersants in response to oil spills. Dispersants are largely ineffective on diluted bitumen and the evidence is mounting that they are more toxic than the oil itself. Certainly, the mixture of oil and dispersant has been found more dangerous for some marine life than spilled oil. 

“The only benefit to dispersants is that they make it difficult to see an oil spill, by breaking it up and mixing it into the water column,” said Wristen. “For the oil polluters—and apparently, the government—it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

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Karen Wristen
Executive Director
604-788-5634

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