West Coast oil spill response to improve says minister

Federal Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver says the federal government needs to do more to protect B.C.'s coast from an oil spill, but he's not offering any concrete plans.

Federal Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver says B.C. coast must be better protected

An oil tanker is guided by tugboats under Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge at the mouth of Burrard Inlet. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Federal Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver says the federal government needs to do more to protect B.C.'s coast from an oil spill, but he's not offering any concrete plans.

The minister made the comments in Vancouver Friday morning, after a report commissioned by the B.C. government found very little oil would be recoverable if an oil spill happened on the North Coast.     

- Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver

The report commissioned for the province found if an oil spill happened on the coast of northern B.C. only three or four percent of the oil would be recovered.

The B.C. government says it will not support the Northern Gateway pipeline and the tanker traffic that comes with it, if there isn't a  "world class" oil spill response system in place.

The new report makes it clear that such a system does not exist in B.C..

It also identified large gaps in the resources needed to respond to a spill, saying they're highly concentrated near Vancouver, but not further north, which would see increased tanker traffic if the pipeline were built.

Speaking Friday, Oliver acknowledged spill response will need to be improved.

"To the extent that we need to do more, and I believe we do, we will make the necessary improvements prior to any increase in traffic."

Oliver offered no new specifics on what further resources would be put in place to protect the coast, although over the past year the federal government has announced some new programs to improve tanker safety on the West Coast.

Earlier this month B.C. Premier Christy Clark told CBC News if a tanker were to spill oil off the coast of British Columbia today, the federal government would not have the resources to handle such a large-scale disaster.

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