A new study says the cost of cleaning up a major oil spill on the North Coast of B.C. could hit $9.6 billion, wiping out any economic benefits from the Northern Gateway Pipeline project for the region.

The UBC study was sponsored by the World Wildlife Federation and conducted by Prof. Rashid Sumaila, the director of the UBC Fisheries Centre and UBC fisheries economist Ngaio Hotte.

Sumaila said the figures show how a major tanker spill off the coast of northern British Columbia could offset any potential economic gains from the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

"There is a lot of rhetoric around the ‘potential’ economic gains of this proposed project, but the hard numbers are showing the risks can outweigh the gains," he said.

According to the study, the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline could create up to 8,500 full time jobs and more than $600 million in economic benefits over the lifetime of the project.

But in addition to the clean-up costs of $9.6 billion, a major oil spill could also cost the region's commercial fisheries, port, ferry transportation and tourism industries more than $300 million.

The study used information provided by the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project to estimate the cost of cleaning up a high impact spill involving about a quarter of a million barrels of oil.


Clean-up crews shovel oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon, La., in May, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

"Spill response, clean up and litigation costs were calculated based on previous estimates of the cost per barrel published by Wright Mansell Research Ltd., a firm hired by Enbridge to analyze the socio-economic impacts of the project," said a statement issued by Sumaila on Wednesday morning.

The study was funded by the World Wildlife Fund Canada which is opposed to the pipeline, but UBC says the environmental organization had no influence over the analysis or the conclusions.

Enbridge says study flawed

Enbridge spokeman Todd Nogier said the report is flawed because it underestimates the economic benefits of the pipeline to the Canadian economy and overemphasizes the risk of a spill.

"At the root of our disagreement with the World Wildlife Fund study is the decision by the authors to compare economic benefits that are certain to occur with spill costs that are very highly improbable to occur."

"Each year, ocean-based industries on the North Coast of B.C. generate about $1.2 billion, provide employment for more than 9,000 people and contribute approximately $700 million to GDP," said the statement.