Posts Tagged ‘Spill’

Several Cruise Voyages Altered by Houston Spill

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) issued a notice to cruise passengers affected by the Houston ship channel oil spill stating that several cruise voyages have been altered or rescheduled.


Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas seven-night Western Caribbean March 23 sailing was originally cancelled because of an oil spill in Houston harbor, but has decided to go ahead with a shortened four-night cruise.


Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic departed March 25 from Galveston to begin a new cruise after being delayed as a result of the oil spill. The ship is operating a five-day Western Caribbean cruise with calls in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The original voyage was a seven-day cruise scheduled to depart on Sunday, March 23.


Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival triumph departed March 25 from Galveston for a four-day cruise to Cozumel. It was originally scheduled for a five-day cruise.


On March 25, 2014, Carnival issued a statement that passengers who chose to sail on the shortened voyages would receive pro-rated refunds and a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.


Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess sailed from the Port of Houston on March 25 after being held in port since an oil spill closed the Houston Ship Channel. The ship is currently underway on a shortened itinerary which will call to Cozumel on March 27 before returning to Houston on March 29. The original voyage was scheduled to depart March 22 on a seven-day Caribbean cruise calling at Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.


Princess has released a statement with information on refunds and reimbursements for passengers affected by this cruise.


FMC advised passengers to consult their ticket contracts to determine their rights.


fmc.gov

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BP Whiting Oil Spill: Latest Update

Monday, March 31st, 2014

The US Coast Guard informs that weather conditions improved overnight enabling clean up operations and assessment activities to progress near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Indiana.


High winds and heavy surf created unsafe conditions for contractors and assessment team personnel both Friday and Saturday, suspending activities. A Coast Guard helicopter returning from a separate mission conducted an overflight assessment of the area and did not observe any oil sheen on the water.


The assessment team, comprised of representatives from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and contractors from BP, resumed assessing the southeast rocky wall of the cove near the refinery to ensure remaining small areas of oiled pebbles were removed by cleanup crews.


With the improved surf conditions, members of the assessment team were able to get underway on a BP Fire Department boat to conduct a comprehensive survey of the path of discharge in search of potentially submerged oil. Other members waded into the water closer to shore also conducting the submerged oil survey. After taking more than 36 underwater probes, the teams did not see any sheening or oil present in or on the water.


As a result of the absence of sheen and oil from the surface of the water for several days, the Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator representative recommended removing all of the boom with the exception of small area surrounding the outfall of the water treatment facility of the refinery, which was the source of the discharge. That section of boom will remain in place until it is confirmed that no oil is in the refinery’s cooling system.


As a result of today’s surveys and progress, the Coast Guard, EPA and BP contractor recommend that the clean up contractors continue to monitor the beach and rocky shoreline to the southeast until Thursday, when a Determination of Clean Survey is conducted by the assessment team.


 

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Texas City Oil Spill Update: Pollution Affects Coast

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The Captain of the Port of Houston/Galveston opened the bay to all traffic Thursday after multiple cleanup assessments and input from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Oil is washing up on Matagorda Island. Coast Guard recruit volunteer ‘Sentinels.

After storms Wednesday afternoon and evening slowed cleanup efforts somewhat in the Ports of Texas City and Galveston because of safety concerns, responders quickly ramped up their operations during the first hours of daylight to resume cleaning contaminated areas, Thursday.


The rough weather is expected to continue to subside throughout the rest of the week, and into the weekend, allowing responders to continue cleanup efforts. Mariners are also advised as they are transiting through the port to keep a watchful eye out for protective boom and other response equipment floating in their path. If found, please report the hazard to navigation to the Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16.


A vessel decontamination plan has been formulated to assist vessels that may have been impacted by oil. The sites of the stations are Pelican Cut, Galveston and Bolivar. To schedule a vessel decontamination call (832)-244-1870.


Matagorda Bay

First oil washed ahore Thursday and the Unified Command for the Texas City Y Response is working diligently to clean affected areas and mitigate further landfall.


Oil spill responders from the Incident Command Post Matagorda in Port O’Connor, Texas, continued to implement their aggressive plans intended to protect environmentally sensitive areas of the Matagorda Bay area against impact from a portion of the oil spilled in Saturday’s ship-barge collision near Texas City, Thursday.


The Coast Guard add that members of the public are discouraged from accessing the island until the Unified Command announces that response operations are complete.


Volunteer ‘Sentinels’

Unified Command has approved the use of unpaid volunteers to conduct 26 miles of shoreline assessments.  The “Sentinel” program will start Friday morning with an assessment of Galveston Island.


Volunteer Coordinators from the Galveston Bay Foundation and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary have scheduled approximately 150 volunteers per day to seven Sentinel teams, each working three 4-hour shifts per day.


Each Sentinel team is assigned to a specific section of shoreline and beaches between San Luis Pass and the west end of Stewart Beach (or Ferry Road), a distance of approximately 26 miles that will be surveyed on foot over the next four days.


The volunteers will be trained by U.S. Coast Guard instructors how to identify different types of oil and wildlife using reporting tools developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Emergency Response Division.


 

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Deepwater Horizon Spill Causes Fish Abnormalities

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that results to a new study conducted by a team of NOAA and academic scientists suggest that crude oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster causes severe defects in the developing hearts of bluefin and yellowfin tunas.


The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, show how the largest marine oil spill in United States history may have affected tunas and other species that spawned in oiled offshore habitats in the northern Gulf of Mexico.


Atlantic bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and other large predatory fish spawn in the northern Gulf during the spring and summer months, a time that coincided with the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. These fish produce buoyant embryos that float near the ocean surface, potentially in harm’s way as crude oil from the damaged wellhead rose from the seafloor to form large surface slicks.


The new study shows that crude oil exposures adversely affect heart development in the two species of tuna and an amberjack species by slowing the heartbeat or causing an uncoordinated rhythm, which can ultimately lead to heart failure.


“We know from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound that recently spawned fish are especially vulnerable to crude oil toxicity,” said Nat Scholz, Ph.D., leader of the ecotoxicology program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “That spill taught us to pay close attention to the formation and function of the heart.”


“The timing and location of the spill raised immediate concerns for bluefin tuna,” said Barbara Block, Ph.D., a study coauthor and professor of biology at Stanford University. “This spill occurred in prime bluefin spawning habitats, and the new evidence indicates a compromising effect of oil on the physiology and morphology of bluefin embryos and larvae.”


Recent studies are increasingly painting a more detailed picture of how oil-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) act on the heart. Earlier this year, the Stanford-NOAA team showed in a related paper published in Science (Brette et al. 343: 772) that Deepwater Horizon crude oil samples block excitation-contraction coupling — vital processes for normal beat-to-beat contraction and pacing of the heart — in individual heart muscle cells isolated from juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tuna.


“We now have a better understanding why crude oil is toxic, and it doesn’t bode well for bluefin or yellowfin embryos floating in oiled habitats.” said Block. “At the level of a single heart muscle cell, we’ve found that petroleum acts like a pharmacological drug by blocking key processes that are critical for cardiac cell excitability.”


This mechanism explains why the team observed a range of cardiac effects in the developing hearts of intact embryos in the present study. “We directly monitored the beating hearts of living fish embryos exposed to crude oil,” said Dr. John Incardona, NOAA research toxicologist and the study’s lead author. “The tiny offspring of tunas and other Gulf species are translucent, and we can use digital microscopy to watch the heart develop.”


The major difficulty facing the researchers was access to live animals. Tunas are difficult to raise in captivity and few facilities exist worldwide with spawning fish. In the open ocean, fragile fish embryos and larvae are mixed with many other types of plankton, and they usually don’t survive the rough conditions in a net towed near the surface. This made it close to impossible to assess developmental cardiotoxicity in samples collected near the Deepwater Horizon surface oil slicks.


To work around this challenge, the international team brought the oil to the fish. Samples of crude oil were collected from the damaged riser pipe and surface skimmers. The samples were then transported to the only land-based hatcheries in the world capable of spawning tunas in captivity.


This approach allowed the scientists to design environmentally relevant crude oil exposures for bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna at marine research facilities in Australia and Panama, respectively. Luke Gardner, an Australian native post-doctoral associate from Stanford University and co-author on the PNAS paper, was vital in helping the team investigate the bluefin.


“It is challenging to maintain bluefin in culture and we were privileged to have successfully tested the crude oil in Australian facilities, the only on-land hatchery that has bluefin tuna in culture. This gave us access to tuna embryos and allowed us to study the developmental toxicity of oil,” said Gardner. The pioneering effort to develop new testing methods was also led by Martin Grosell, Ph.D., at the University of Miami.


The new research adds to a growing list of fish that are affected by crude oil. “This fits the pattern,” said Incardona. “The tunas and the amberjack exposed to Deepwater Horizon crude oil were impacted in much the same way that herring were deformed by the Alaska North Slope crude oil spilled in Prince William Sound during the Exxon Valdez accident.”


Crude oil is a complex mixture of chemicals, some of which are known to be toxic to marine animals. Past research has focused in particular on PAHs, which can also be found in coal tar, creosote, air pollution and stormwater runoff from land. In the aftermath of an oil spill, PAHs can persist for many years in marine habitats and cause a variety of adverse environmental effects.


Developmental abnormalities were evident in bluefin and yellowfin tunas at very low concentrations, in the range of approximately one to 15 parts per billion total PAHs. These levels are below the measured PAH concentrations in many samples collected from the upper water column of the northern Gulf during the active Deepwater Horizon spill phase.


Severely affected fish with heart failure and deformed jaws are likely to have died soon after hatching. However, the NOAA team has shown in previous work that fish surviving transient crude oil exposures with only mild effects on the still-forming heart have permanent changes in heart shape that reduce swimming performance later in life.


“This creates a potential for delayed mortality,” said Incardona. “Swimming is everything for these species.”


The nature of the injury was very similar for all three pelagic predators, and similar also to the response of other marine fish previously exposed to crude oil from other geologic sources. Given this consistency, the authors suggest there may have been cardiac-related impacts on swordfish, marlin, mackerel, and other Gulf species. “If they spawned in proximity to oil, we’d expect these types of effects,” said Incardona.


The research was funded by NOAA as part of the on-going Natural Resource Damage Assessment for the Gulf ecosystem following the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Contributing to the findings in addition to NOAA and Stanford University were researchers from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.


noaa.gov

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Houston Ship Channel Restricted for Oil Spill Recovery, Tankbarge Salvage

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Part of the Houston Ship Channel has been closed to marine traffic to enable response operations following the recent collision between UTV MISS SUSAN and the bulk carrier M/V SUMMER WIND approximately 100 yards off the Texas City Dike, near lights 25/26 which led to the partial sinking of the Kirby Marine tank barge.


Coast Guard inform that progress continued throughout the day Sunday in response to a bunker fuel spill in the Houston Ship Channel that resulted in the release of approximately 168,000 gallons of product. Responding agencies operating in a Unified Command structure report that more than 69,000 feet of containment boom has now been deployed on waters surrounding the incident site and along sensitive shorelines in the area. An additional 141,000 feet of boom has been staged for possible deployment.


Changing currents, winds and weather conditions have necessitated response officials to further extend containment and oil recovery plans further into the Gulf of Mexico and south along Galveston Island.


Approximately 24 response vessels are actively working to skim the oil. Importantly, responders were able to complete transferring product inside the barge’s damaged compartment to a second barge. The damaged barge was then moved to a safer location for responders until it can be removed to a local shipyard for further assessment and repair.


The Bolivar ferry remains closed to traffic, and a safety zone [see chartlet], established on Saturday to ensure the well-being of response workers and prevent the further spread of oil, has been extended from lighted buoy 40 to lighted buoy 3 on the Houston Ship Channel. This safety zone restricts the transit of vessels not involved in the response from entering the area.


Coast Guard officials did allow two cruise ships to travel through the incident area by late afternoon to minimize inconvenience to the thousands of passengers aboard and limit economic impacts from the spill. However, neither vessel will be allowed to leave the port again until deemed safe to do so.

 

 

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US Appeals Court, Says BP Bound by Gulf Spill Accord

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters


A divided U.S. appeals court has rejected BP Plc’s bid to block businesses from recovering money over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even if they could not trace their economic losses to the disaster.


By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans late Monday upheld a Dec. 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, authorizing the payments on so-called business economic loss claims. It also said an injunction preventing payments should be lifted.


The decision is a setback for BP’s effort to limit payments under a multi-billion dollar settlement over the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and rupture of BP’s Macondo oil well.


That disaster killed 11 people and triggered the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.


Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said the company may appeal. BP had previously asked the full 5th Circuit to review a Jan. 10 decision by another three-judge panel that upheld the settlement itself.


BP previously settled U.S. criminal proceedings over the spill, and has completed two phases of a three-part civil trial before Barbier, where it could face more than $17 billion of penalties.


The company has set aside $42.7 billion for cleanup, compensation, legal and other costs related to the spill, . It has estimated that business economic loss claims in the latest appeal totaled about $1 billion.


“Each $1 billion extra on claims equates to just 2 pence per share for BP,” Investec analysts said in a note.


BP shares traded down 0.3 percent at 491.6 pence in late afternoon trading in London.


Resumption of Payment Expected

Barbier ruled that BP would have to live with its earlier interpretation of a Dec. 2012 settlement with businesses and individuals harmed by the spill, in which certain businesses claiming losses were presumed to have suffered harm.


BP argued that this would allow businesses to recover for fictitious losses, but the 5th Circuit rejected its appeal.


“The settlement agreement does not require a claimant to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill,” Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick wrote for the majority.


Terms of the settlement “are not as protective of BP’s present concerns as might have been achievable, but they are the protections that were accepted by the parties and approved by the district court,” the judge added.


The 5th Circuit also said claims administrator Patrick Juneau retained the authority to root out bogus claims, without having to perform the “gatekeeping” function that BP sought.


Circuit Judge Edith Brown Clement dissented, saying the decision wrongly helps claimants whose losses had “absolutely nothing to do with Deepwater Horizon or BP’s conduct.”


Steve Herman and Jim Roy, who represent the business claimants, said in a joint statement: “Today’s ruling makes clear that BP can’t rewrite the deal it agreed to.”


Juneau, in a statement, said the decision “appears to clear the way” for the resumption of payments on business economic loss claims, and that he will resume making such payments upon a formal direction from the district court.


BP originally projected that the settlement would cost $7.8 billion. As of Feb. 4, it had boosted this estimate to $9.2 billion, and said this sum could grow “significantly higher.”


As of Monday, about $3.84 billion had been paid out to 42,272 claimants, according to Juneau’s website.


The case is In re: Deepwater Horizon, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 13-30315 and 13-30329.

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Scientists Train Students on Oil Spill Research

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

As part of ongoing research nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will team up with a group of high school students in Florida to collect remnants of oil from Gulf Coast beaches this week.


Marine chemist Chris Reddy studies how the many compounds that compose petroleum hydrocarbon, or oil, behave and change over time after an oil spill. He and his researchers have collected and analyzed about 1,000 oil samples from the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


“With an iconic and wide-ranging spill like Deepwater Horizon, the need to perform such long-term studies is a top priority for me,” said Reddy. He has already catalogued many of these samples in an on-line database to make the data available to the public and scientific community.


How the compounds react and weather in the environment also can help inform the chemical industry, governments, and clean-up efforts when future oil spills occur.


“Spilled oil undergoes a series of changes due to Mother Nature called ‘weathering.’ Weathering differs from one site to another based on several factors including the type of oil spilled and the local climate. Therefore, each location is a living laboratory that allows us to interrogate how Nature responds to these uninvited hydrocarbons.”


On Feb. 28, the group of students will work alongside Reddy’s team and colleagues from the Florida State University in one such living laboratory at a Pensacola, Fla. beach. This field expedition is part of a new education initiative called the Gulf Oil Observers (GOO), which trains volunteers to be effective citizen scientists. GOO mentors are educators and scientists associated with the Deep-C Consortium research project – a long-term study investigating the environmental consequences of oil released in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health.


The students from West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Pensacola will collect samples of small, round clumps of sand mixed with crude oil. These oiled sand patties can be easily overlooked on the beach. No bigger than a silver dollar, they resemble small dark rocks, driftwood, and other beach debris.


“But if you know what to look for, they’re not difficult to identify,” said Reddy. That’s why he and WHOI researcher Catherine Carmichael will train 23 high school students, the first group of GOO volunteers, on-site in Pensacola, Fla. to help conduct this research.


“The nature of our research – investigating the issues involved in understanding and protecting ecological communities in the Gulf – provides rich opportunities for engagement with teachers, students, and the general public,” said Eric Chassignet, professor of oceanography at the Florida State University and director of the Deep-C Consortium.


Before going out into the field, the GOO volunteers participated in a series of classroom lessons led by Florida State University educators that covered topics including how to think like a scientist, applying the scientific method, the effectiveness of oil‐eating microbes, and information about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They were also trained in sample collection and scientific observation techniques such as how to properly document, photograph, and record observations in the field that they will apply to the collection of the reddish-brown oiled sand patties.


The samples collected during the GOO field study will be sent to WHOI for analysis in order to determine what they are comprised of and if they contain oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Through the on-line database, GOO volunteers will be able to track the results of their samples while Deep‐C scientists can use the data to further their research efforts.


“Working outdoors on a beach is a great way to get young scientists out of the classroom and into the field where they often develop a strong bond to the work. And when they know they are participating in something more than just another homework assignment, there is considerably more buy-in,” said Reddy.


He and Carmichael gave a guest presentation about their research and their careers to this group of Honors Marine Science students in December.


“The high school students bring a refreshing perspective that supercharges me,” said Reddy.


While in the field this week, the students will learn and apply the scientific method and process as part of this on-going research into the effects of crude oil on the environment funded by a grant from the BP/Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).


“The Gulf Oil Observers project was designed to allow students to share in the excitement of scientific discovery,” said Chassignet.


Thus far, Reddy’s research has yielded groundbreaking results. One such finding is that more oil than expected was weathered by a process called oxidation through exposure to sunlight and oil-eating microbes. The scientists have also found that the subtle changes in a compound’s shape or size can affect the rate it biodegrades. This discovery can be applied to the development of new industrial compounds that can quickly break down or last longer when released into the environment.


In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged well about 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. Following the disaster, BP made a commitment to grant $500 million over 10 years to fund an independent research program designed to study the impact of the oil spill on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico.


“Never in the history of oil spill science has this research been funded so well with the decade-long effort from BP through GoMRI. Having 10 years for scientists to develop new techniques and insights will inevitably lead to advancements in this area of research,” said Reddy.


whoi.edu

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Crude Oil Spill in Delaware River: Boom Deployed

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

US Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay are responding to a crude oil spill in the Delaware River

Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders received notification of the spill at approximately 1 p.m. Monday (local time) after the National Response Center informed of an estimated 1,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Delaware River near Monroe Energy LLC, located about one mile south of the Commodore Barry Bridge.


A boom is deployed to contain the oil while responders use skimmers and vacuums to remove the oil from the water.


A pollution response team from Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay is on scene to verify safe and thorough cleanup operations.  

 

 

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New Report on Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Response Capabilities

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The Tanker Safety Expert Panel, an independent panel appointed to review Canada’s current tanker safety system and to propose measures to strengthen it, has released its report: ‘A Review of Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime—Setting the Course for the Future.’

The report aims to improve Canada’s system for ship-source oil spill preparedness and response in order to better protect the public and the environment.


“I want to thank the panel for its detailed, thoughtful work, and the invaluable expertise they have brought to this critical issue,” said The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport. “I look forward to studying the report, speaking with stakeholders about their views, and discussing it with my cabinet colleagues. The government will take all necessary actions to prevent oil spills, clean them up should they happen, and ensure that polluters pay.”


The independent panel consulted with pan-Canadian industry stakeholders, spill response organizations, owners and operators of oil handling facilities, vessel owners and operators, ports, industry associations, as well as Aboriginal organizations, federal and provincial governments, and US officials. It also solicited written submissions from the public via its website.


The panel’s full report, can be viewed at: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/tankersafetyexpertpanel/menu.html


(The panel will begin working on its second report early in 2014, examining national requirements for ship-source spills of hazardous and noxious substances, including liquefied natural gas, as well as the state of oil spill preparedness and response in the Arctic).

 

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Canada Conducts Spill Response Study

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

A comprehensive study assessing current marine-spill preparedness and response capabilities was released by the Province today. The study also outlines necessary improvements to achieve a world-class system to ensure B.C.’s coast is protected from potential marine spills.


Nuka Research, an international expert in spill preparedness and response, had been commissioned by the provincial government to undertake the study so B.C. could better understand the federal government’s ability to deal with a spill off the west coast. The West Coast Spill Response Study contains three volumes, including:


    Volume 1 – An assessment of the existing marine-spill prevention and response regime in place for B.C.

    Volume 2 – A vessel traffic study assessing the current and potential levels of shipping on the west coast of Canada and the current volume of hydrocarbons being shipped or used as fuel.

    Volume 3 – An analysis to identify international best practices and the elements required for establishing a world-class marine spill preparedness and response system.


“While we respect federal jurisdiction over marine spills, we must ensure B.C.’s interests are being met, and that means adding more resources to protect our coast,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Environment. “This study is essential to informing our discussions with the federal government in building a world-class marine spill response system.”


The study lays the foundation for building a world-class marine spill response and preparedness system, one of the Province’s five conditions for considering heavy oil pipelines in B.C.




While the federal government is the lead for marine spills and is already taking some important steps to improve the system, the study concludes more federal resources are needed to protect the west coast. B.C will continue to work with the Government of Canada and push for changes necessary to ensure world-class requirements and regulations are in place.


The complete study can be found at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/west-coast-spill-response-study/

 

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