British Columbia

Reduced oil spill response times on B.C. coast a step closer to reality

If a plan to reduce oil response times goes ahead, it would mean seven new bases and 115 full-time jobs for Vancouver Island and Vancouver.

Five of the oil response stations would be on Vancouver Island with the main hub in Nanaimo

Past spills in B.C. have highlighted the challenges and complications associated with environmental clean-ups. (Chris Corday/CBC)

A ramped up oil spill response could mean more jobs for Vancouver Island and Vancouver.

With the approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline at both the federal and provincial levels, plans for seven new oil response stations are closer to becoming reality.

Michael Lowry is the communications manager for the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and he says Trans Mountain asked the company to do assessments on reducing oil spill response times.

"And what that looked like is basically reducing the upper planning standards for response times in Vancouver harbour from six hours today, down to two hours," said Lowry.

For the southern shipping route along Vancouver Island, Lowry says the goal is to have a response time of six hours, what he calls a "drastic" reduction.

He adds that the current oil spill response times vary depending on location.

"In the Gulf Islands, you are looking at a maximum 18-hour response, and then as you get to the west side, over at Port Renfrew, the current planning standards are up to 72 hours."

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project's Westeridge loading dock is seen in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Lowry notes these times are the planning standards and they are not a reflection of how long it currently takes to respond to spills.

According to Lowry, five of the new oil response stations would be on Vancouver Island.

The planned locations are Nanaimo, Sidney, Beecher Bay and a combination base in Port Alberni and Ucluelet.

There would also be an offshore supply vessel probably anchored in Victoria Harbour.

"We would be adding another 115 employees and those are full-time marine jobs. And about 80 of those jobs would be on Vancouver Island."

Lowry estimates the cost of the program would be $150 million over 20 years, to be paid for by Trans Mountain and the shippers.

Diesel oil forms a rainbow on the ocean surface near Bella Bella B.C., where a tug boat sank in October. (Tavish Campbell/Heiltsuk Nation)

Despite the environmental approval of the pipeline expansion by the B.C. Government, critics remain skeptical about the success of cleaning up diluted bitumen or dilbit carried by tankers.

Adam Olsen is the B.C. Green candidate for Saanich North and the Islands.

"You'd think that, at the very least, Kinder Morgan would have been expected to show that they can clean up a dilbit spill to get approval. But they haven't — because they can't," Olsen said.

Lowry says the company is waiting for a final investment from Kinder Morgan before moving ahead with building new stations and hiring staff.