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Moratorium on Oil and Gas Activities Offshore ritish !olumbia "ictoria# Ma$ %&# '(() $ Gerald Graham# Ph* +*% ,'(() Outline -his presentation looks at the threat of oil spills related to h$drocarbon e.ploration and development in the /ueen !harlotte asin# the probabilit$ of their happening and being cleaned up# and their potential conse0uences* -he conclusion reached is that the overall threat level is unacceptable# which translates into a recommendation to maintain the current moratoria on crude oil transport and offshore drilling* Challenge to the Oilpatch -hose who would seek to e.plore for offshore oil and gas off the ritish !olumbia coast should show the$ are committed to protecting the marine environment b$ demonstrating the$ have the capabilit$ to clean up after a ma1or offshore oil spill* 2ntil such time as the$ demonstrate this capabilit$# the$ should not be allowed to operate in this area* -he message for the oilpatch is3 Show us that you mean it! Prove you can clean it! Vulnerability of the Marine Ecosystem to Oil Spills +egradation of the ph$sical and chemical environment of the region could have a negative impact on various levels of the food chain# including the eelgrass and seagrass beds# the sand lance# seabed mussels# seabirds and salmon* Sand lance# for instance# are a preferred food for several species of fish and seabirds4 the$ feed on plankton and spend much of the winter buried in the sand# which makes them especiall$ vulnerable to oil spills* Nevertheless# their ecolog$ and biomass are poorl$ understood%* !learl$# more research needs to be done before this ke$ species is sub1ected to e.ploration and production* 5ikewise# seabed mussels are a ke$stone species4 their dense beds provide cover for hundreds of different species* eing filter feeders# the$ are sensitive to oil contamination*
Alan 6ood !onsulting 7nc*# 8Potential 7nteractions etween Oil and Gas 9.ploration and +evelopment and 5iving Marine Resources in the /ueen !harlotte asin Area:# Appendi. %;# ritish !olumbia Offshore <$drocarbon +evelopment# Report of the Scientific Review Panel# =anuar$ %;# '(('# pp* >?@%%;# at p* %(;*
actinellid sponge reef colonies# of which there are four* Fift$ percent of the reefs have been destro$ed b$ fishing trawlers# although the$ are now protected b$ regulation* an#er Spills: $ Clear and Present %anger 6hile the probabilit$ of a tanker spill occurring somewhere on the worldocean is onl$ one seventh of what it was thirt$ $ears ago# when the ritish !olumbia offshore oil moratoria were introduced# three and one half ma1or spills still occur each $ear# on ' ritish !olumbia Offshore <$drocarbon +evelopment# Report of the Scientific Review Panel# =anuar$ %.tant in the /ueen !harlotte asin are deemed to be at risk)* -hese include the sea otter# northern abalone and eulachon# the latter of which has special significance for native diet# culture and econom$* -hen# of course# there are the <e.pert Panel on Science 7ssues Related to Oil and Gas Activities# Offshore ritish !olumbia# -he Ro$al Societ$ of !anada# Ottawa# Ontario# Februar$ '(()# p* D&* .# '(('# pp* '.posure to oil could seriousl$ impact the entire food web# including fish# seabirds and marine mammals'* Seabirds are another valued ecos$stem component threatened b$ marine oil spills&* -he$ are an integral part of the marine ecos$stem# and are a defining characteristic of the /ueen !harlotte asin* Seabirds depend directl$ on plankton and fish for food# and are a ke$ pre$ item for some fish species* -he$ are also a bioindicator species# which means that if large numbers of dead seabirds start washing up on shore# it could be a signal that something is amiss* +iving birds# or alcids# are among the most vulnerable t$pes of seabirds to oil spills4 for one thing# the$ spend much of their time on or above the water* -he /ueen !harlotte 7slands# for e. hreatened and Endangered Species of the !ueen Charlotte "asin A total of twent$@one marine species e.ample# are home to half a million ancient murrelets# or half of the worldAs population* -he$ are listed as a species of special concern b$ !OS967! B the !ommittee on the Status of 9ndangered 6ildlife in !anadaC* -he$ have a range of twent$ kilometres out to sea* 7n addition# their $oung are tended at sea* -went$ percent of the worldAs marbled murrelet population BDD#((( individualsC resides in the /ueen !harlotte asin4 the$ are designated b$ !OS967! as a threatened species# which is one rung up from Eof special concernA on the endangered species ladder* 9ight$ percent of the worldAs population of !assinAs auklets B'*? million individualsC are found within the same region* -he$ are highl$ pelagic# and dive to %'( feet* -heir diet includes plankton# small fish and s0uid4 thus# an oil spill that affected an$ of these dietar$ sources could have repercussions on !assinAs auklets* 5astl$# fift$ percent of the worldAs rhinoceros auklets reside in the asin* -hese birds have a range of thirt$ kilometres and can sta$ underwater for up to two minutes* Rare.*%# Report of the 9.pert Panel on Science 7ssues Related to Oil and Gas Activities# Offshore ritish !olumbia# -he Ro$al Societ$ of !anada# Ottawa# Ontario# Februar$ '(()# p* >&* ) -able .# 'D* & Report of the 9.Moreover# their e.
perienced in the /ueen !harlotte asin increases the risk of a spill occurring# and would no doubt hamper the response effort* One in three offshore storms in the region are not predicted* Also# marine bombs are known to develop within the region4 these events consist of a rapid drop in pressure and giant waves up to twent$@eight metres in height* Since these storms can develop in a relativel$ short period of time# i*e* eight hours or so# the$ implications for offshore oil and gas developmentD* 6ere an offshore oil spill to occur in /ueen !harlotte Sound or <ecate Strait during the winter months# prevailing currents could bring the oil onshore# or even up through +i.hibit no oil avoidance behaviour* Man$ species of fish are vulnerable# including salmon# groundfish and foragers such as herring# sand lance and oolichan* -he pelagics# such as halibut# tend to be less vulnerable* Shellfish and invertebrates in the intertidal Fone would tend to be e. 7nternational -anker Owners Pollution Federation web site3 www*itopf*com* D Report of the 9..imatel$ one hundred and eight$ five miles offshore# and the Gulf Stream could be e.tremel$ vulnerable* 5astl$# tainting of fish and shellfish# whether real or perceived# could frighten off would@ be suppliers and consumers of ritish !olumbian product# with the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue* Realities of Operating in the !ueen Charlotte "asin -he severit$ of winter conditions regularl$ e.pert Panel on Science 7ssues Related to Oil and Gas Activities# Offshore ritish !olumbia# -he Ro$al Societ$ of !anada# Ottawa# Ontario# Februar$ '(()# p* )%* .on"aldeF spill in Alaska in %>G>* 7t is often argued that operating conditions off the North !oast# while severe# are no worse than those encountered in other e.average.treme environments# such as at <ibernia off Newfoundland# and in !ook 7nlet off the Alaskan coast* -he comparison does not stand up3 <ibernia is appro.on 9ntrance and on into Alaskan waters* 2nfortunatel$# conventional oil containment and recover$ techni0ues would be of limited use for an offshore spill# such that responders would have no choice but to let nature take its course* +epending on the t$pe of oil .* Moreover# cleanup and compensation costs for spills have increased dramaticall$# starting with the 9.pected to move an$ oil spilled towards 7celand* As for !ook 7nlet# it is a more confined space# and the oil platforms tend to be closer to shore than the$ ever would be off the North !oast# given the twent$ kilometre coastal e.clusion Fone currentl$ in place* 6ere a ma1or oil spill to occur in the /ueen !harlotte asin# the effects could be widespread* Seabirds would be particularl$ vulnerable4 oil could affect them directl$# plus indirectl$ via contamination of their food suppl$* Oil reduces the insulating properties of seabird feathers# which can have a potentiall$ lethal effect* Oiled birds have a low survival rate# even with cleaning* Several other species are vulnerable as well* For instance# the insulating properties of sea otter fur are reduced* 6hales# seals and sea lions e.
ist if# for instance# the spill occurred close to shore# near an oil spill response depot# in the middle of summer# when the waters were calm and the da$s were long# the oil involved was light crude# it didnAt spread much or emulsif$# and it was 0uickl$ contained and recovered* -his would constitute a EbestA case scenario* 2nder a medium case scenario# a large volume of medium crude might spill from an undersea pipeline rupture caused b$ an earth0uake* 7f this were to happen during the MarchHApril herring spawn# and wind$# wav$ conditions dela$ed cleanup# there could be e.ceeded in the /ueen !harlotte asin during the winter months* !onse0uentl$# response vessels would probabl$ remain tied up in port much of the winter* Other response options# such as dispersants and in situ burning# have limited application3 dispersants do not work at the best of times# and burning of the oil must normall$ occur during the first twent$ four hours after a spill* Since this is the period when basic spill data is normall$ being gathered# burning would probabl$ not be a viable option* "est.ceeds )# then conventional booms and skimmers will not work* -hese conditions are almost alwa$s e.involved and its weathering characteristics# a certain amount of oil or oilHwater emulsion# aka Echocolate mousseA could at some point wash ashore4 the rest might evaporate# dissolve andHor disperse* Given the possible futilit$ of combating the spill at sea# the response effort ma$ have to concentrate on shoreline protection and cleanup# with positioning of the re0uisite e0uipment* -he sad fact of the matter is that conventional offshore oil spill containment and recover$ techni0ues seldom work under less than ideal conditions* And# unlike e.ceed twent$ knots# or the waves e. Medium and &orst Case Scenarios 7f a small volume oil spill were to occur under EidealA conditions# there might be minimal impacts# and the conse0uences might be short@term* E7dealA conditions would e.ceed three metres# or the eaufort scale e.ercises# spills seldom happen under ideal conditions4 on the contrar$# the worst of them tend to happen when conditions are dreadful* -hus# if the winds e.tensive damage to sensitive coastal resources over a wide area* -he marine environment might take three to five $ears to recover* 2nder a worst case scenario# there could be a well blowout# or a full$@laden supertanker could break in two# spilling a large 0uantit$ of persistent# heav$ crude oil* -he oil could impact an area from the Alaskan boundar$ to north central "ancouver 7sland* 6ithin this Fone# the intertidal Fone and beaches could be impacted4 oil could penetrate the sediment* Seagrass beds# rockfish and 1uvenile salmon would be particularl$ vulnerable* Sand lance might be decimated# in which case higher levels of the food chain could be impacted as well* 6ere the oil to enter low wave energ$ inlets# it could persist for $ears4 oolichan and salmon stocks could be impacted# in which case native culture# diet and livelihood would all be adversel$ affected* A number of threatened or endangered bird species could be wiped out* !leanup and compensation costs could run into the billions of dollars# with the provincial government on the hook for most of that# the PI7 clubs and international .
compensation funds pa$ing out onl$ a small fraction in claims* ritish !olumbiaAs carefull$ crafted image as a tourism and cruise ship destination could be shattered* Proposed Measures to 'protect( the !ueen Charlotte "asin A number of measures have been announced or proposed to protect individual components of the /ueen !harlotte asin* Some# such as the twent$ kilometre coastal e.clusion Fone# are directl$ related to oil and gas activit$# while others# such as the buffer Fones around sponge reef colonies# plus various marine protected area proposals# would proceed whether or not oil and gas activit$ was authorised* -he effect of all of these proposed measures combined would be essentiall$ to confine oil and gas activit$ to the middle of the basin# i*e* to a Fone at least twent$ kilometres from shore* -his kind of Eout of site# out of mindA approach would have the effect of preserving the seascape from the shoreline# in the sense that no oil rigs would be visible from the beach or rock$ headlands at least* Regrettabl$# this approach ignores the fluid nature of the medium we are dealing with here# i*e* water4 there is ver$ little evidence to support the notion that once spilled# oil will respect an$ of these boundaries* 7n fact# in a version of Ethe law of unintended conse0uencesA# the opposite ma$ in fact occur3 shunting oil and gas activit$ further and further offshore ma$ inadvertentl$ increase the damage* -his is so because the further the spill site is from shore# the longer it ma$ take for response vessels to reach the casualt$ site and launch a salvage andHor containment and recover$ operation* 7n the meantime# the oil has a chance to spread and emulsif$# potentiall$ creating an even larger slick# and impacting an even greater length of coastline than would otherwise be the case if the spill had been closer to shore* -his is not to suggest that the alternative# i*e* keeping the oil and gas activit$ as close to shore as possible# is better4 for this option would no doubt be e0uall$ unpalatable# especiall$ to first nations groups* 6hat it does suggest# however# is that there are likel$ to be few if an$ measures to protect the region from offshore oil and gas activit$ that are better than the current# blanket# region@wide moratorium* he En)ironmental hreat -he threat of oil spills to the marine environment of the /ueen !harlotte asin tends to be underestimated* -he general message conve$ed to the public b$ industr$ and the provincial government alike is that disasters can be averted b$ preventive measures# but that if the$ do occur# the appropriate countermeasures will mitigate the effects* -his tends to give people a false sense of securit$# namel$ that a mid@winter oil spill could actuall$ be cleaned up* A basic problem is that all too often risk is looked at strictl$ from a probabilit$ angle# i*e* the likelihood of a negative event occurring# whereas it is reall$ the product of two things3 the chances of an event happening# multiplied b$ the conse0uences if it were to occur* -wo analogies are appropriate3 wearing seatbelts when driving a car# and wearing .
ploration in the /ueen !harlotte asin constitutes an unacceptable threat to the integrit$ of the marine ecos$stem of the region* 6hile the probabilit$ of a ma1or spill occurring ma$ be relativel$ small# the conse0uences which might ensue could be devastating* For one thing# it would be virtuall$ impossible to clean up an offshore spill in the middle of winter# using current technolog$* -hus# on scientific and technological grounds# the offshore oil and gas moratorium in the /ueen !harlotte asin should be maintained* Reconsideration of the issue of lifting the moratorium should not be entertained until technolog$ improves to the point where a credible marine oil spill response operation can be launched $ear@round* ? ritish !olumbia Offshore <$drocarbon +evelopment# Report of the Scientific Review Panel# =anuar$ %.# '(('# p* i* G Report of the 9.pert panel contends the following3 8Provided an ade0uate regulator$ regime is put in place# there are no science gaps that need to be filled before lifting the moratoria on oil and gas development:G* 7t is submitted that while there are substantial knowledge gaps# what we do know is at least as important as what we don’t know* Furthermore# what we do know is enough to inform a decision one wa$ or the other as to whether to maintain or lift the moratorium* Conclusion -he prospect of offshore oil e.* .i.a helmet while c$cling* 7n both cases# the probabilit$ of a serious accident occurring are perhaps small* ut# once a car crash or a bikeHcar collision has happened# the conse0uences could be life@threatening if the person involved was not wearing protective gear* -he so@called 8Strong Report: commissioned b$ the province of ritish !olumbia concluded that although the ErisksA might be small# oil spills could have impacts which 8Jma$ be catastrophic in the short@term and carr$ serious and possibl$ irreversible conse0uences in the long@term:?* 7n effect# scientists are warning us that there is no such thing as Fero risk# and that if we are prepared to lift the moratorium# then we also have to be prepared to lose ever$thing we regard as so precious* -he Ro$al Societ$ of !anada e.pert Panel on Science 7ssues Related to Oil and Gas Activities# Offshore ritish !olumbia# -he Ro$al Societ$ of !anada# Ottawa# Ontario# Februar$ '(()# p* .
pert on oil spill response* 9arlier this $ear# he successfull$ completed the oil spill On Scene !ommanderAs course offered b$ the !anadian !oast Guard at the !oast Guard !ollege# in S$dne$# Nova Scotia* 7n =une of this $ear he will deliver a paper on marine oil spill e.% +r* Graham is a "ictoria@based international e.pert s$stems at the '? th Arctic and Marine Oilspill BAMOPC -echnical Seminar in 9dmonton# Alberta* .
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