Oil spill near proposed Enbridge pipeline route

Image: Oil on water in Grenville ChannelA BoB short:

The Gitga’at Nation of Hartley Bay, B.C. has reported an oil spill, between two and five miles long and 200 feet wide inside the Grenville Channel, not far from the proposed tanker route for the Enbridge Gateway pipeline.

According to a media release, the spill, believed to be from a sunken munitions ship, was spotted by a commercial pilot and reported to the Gitga’at Nation and the Canadian Coast Guard on Tuesday evening.

“If this spill is as big as the pilots are reporting, then we’re looking at serious environmental impacts, including threats to our traditional shellfish harvesting areas,” says Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga’at Nation. “We need an immediate and full clean-up response from the federal government ASAP.”

Heavy oil is thought to be leaking from the USAT Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski, a U.S. army transport ship that sank in 1946 with 700 tons of bunker fuel on board. According to the Gitga’at, the Canadian government first promised to remove the oil and munitions from the ship in 2006, but has not followed through.

“This incident definitely raises questions about the federal government’s ability to guard against oil spills and to honour its clean-up obligations,” says Clifton. “As a result, our nation has serious concerns about any proposal to have tankers travel through our coastal waters, including the Enbridge proposal.”

The Conservative government recently introduced legislation that would give the federal cabinet final decision-making power over projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline, including the authority to overturn decisions by the National Energy Board.

- Zeff Davies

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