Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chronic Oil a Greater Risk Than Tanker Spill, Nature Canada Tells Pipeline Panel

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chronic Oil a Greater Risk Than Tanker Spill, Nature Canada Tells Pipeline Panel

Article excerpt

Chronic oil more damaging than tanker spill

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PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. - Chronic, ship-source discharges of oily effluent pose a larger problem than large-scale catastrophic oil spills, lawyers for Nature Canada told the panel weighing the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer for the non-profit conservation group, questioned a panel of company experts Monday -- the opening day of the hearings in Prince Rupert, B.C. -- about the company's assessment of the project's impacts on marine birds.

Tollefson said the area that would be traversed by 220 oil tankers annually is home to hundreds of at-risk species, including the endangered marbled murrelet, great blue heron, horned grebe and black-footed albatross.

"The literature says that the cumulative effects of chronic oiling on marine birds is greater than the impact of catastrophic oil spills. Would you agree that that's what the literature says," Tollefson asked Jeff Green, who was responsible for the project's environmental assessment for Calgary-based Enbridge.

Such chronic, or "mystery" spills, can be as large as tanker spills, Green agreed, but they occur in different regions and in smaller volumes, and therefore behave differently.

The growing awareness of the problem has resulted in a call for increased surveillance and increased enforcement of laws that prevent ship-source discharges, he said.

"So, yes, it is a problem. There's absolutely no question it's a problem: oil and birds are not a good combination," Green said.

But recreational boats, fishing vessels, urban runoff and sewage are sources of mystery oil, Green said, as well as natural seepage from offshore oil deposits in the Pacific.

Authorized discharges are legally limited to an amount that does not have a significant impact on wildlife. Discharges above that amount are illegal under the Canada Shipping Act, he said.

"The project is going to fully comply with all regulation and laws. That is our firm expectation," said John Carruthers, president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, one of nearly two dozen experts who will testify under oath at the hearings.

But Tollefson pointed out that Enbridge has not disclosed all partners in the Northern Gateway project, and questioned whether the company can make that guarantee. …

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