Oil Spill Response

During Question Period yesterday, Opposition Critics Katrine Conroy and Spencer Chandra Herbert asked the Minister of Environment about the province’s failure to ensure industry deals adequately with spills – including the jet fuel spill in Lemon Creek and the recent coal spill in Burnaby’s Silver Creek.

DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
(HANSARD)
HOUSE BLUES

TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014
Morning Sitting
Oral Questions

CLEANUP OF FUEL SPILL INTO LEMON CREEK

K. Conroy: Here’s some optimism that’s not working out. It has been ten months since a fuel truck spilled 33,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley. Not only can fuel still be found; locals recently uncovered eight soiled booms stinking of fuel left in the creek. This is the entire problem with the B.C. Liberals’ approach to environmental cleanup. “Polluter pays” is meaningless if there is no ongoing supervision of the cleanup.

My question is to the Minister of Environment. What penalties will the company pay? What will they face for failing to properly clean up Lemon Creek?

Hon. M. Polak: While the ministry remains involved in monitoring and remediation that is being undertaken, nevertheless, the member knows that the matter is currently before the courts, and I have to be very cautious with respect to any commentary specific to the case.

Madame Speaker: Kootenay West on a supplemental.

K. Conroy: Residents are left with this mess. They’re bearing the ongoing costs of this spill. Not a dime of compensation has been paid to the organic farmers who lost their entire crops. There’s not a nickel for residents who still can’t drink their water, and there’s no environmental analysis. There are no people going out and watching. It’s before the courts, but there should be people out there working. There should be ministerial people working.
So much for polluter pays. The Slocan River Streamkeepers, which has a long history of monitoring the water quality of Slocan Creek and Lemon Creek, just did further testing, which showed that the water is still polluted from spill. Are we going to wait for the courts to be done before we’re going to clean up the pollution in that creek?

Again, to the Minister of Environment: if polluters pay, why do the people of Lemon Creek and the Slocan Valley continue to pay for this spill?

Hon. M. Polak: I know that this has been just an awful experience for the community in and around Lemon Creek. I can’t say enough about the community members and especially organizations like the Slocan River Streamkeepers and how they have participated and worked with us as a ministry. There is ongoing monitoring taking place and ongoing remediation.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment with any detail about this case, but I will say this. The principle of polluter pay is one that we are absolutely supportive of on this side of the House. To that end, we have just released the second land spills policy intentions paper for comment. I am pleased to say that the most recent federal announcement also included significant aspects of our own policy intentions around the principle of polluter pay, and we continue to advance that aggressively.

PREPAREDNESS FOR OIL SPILL RESPONSE

S. Chandra Herbert: Yet again, when it comes to the environment, we get all talk and no action from the B.C. Liberals. Eight booms, laden with jet fuel, found in Lemon Creek, left there for ten months. Who found them? Not the Ministry of Environment. No. Not the company that dumped the fuel in the creek. No. It was the citizens, left holding the bag because this government doesn’t pay attention to protecting the environment, and yet the spill still hasn’t been fully cleaned up.

My question to the Minister of Environment: if we can’t trust the B.C. Liberals to ensure that a spill from a single fuel truck is cleaned up properly, how can British Columbians have any faith that this government would act properly should we have an oil spill 10,000 times the size on our coast?
[1045]

Hon. M. Polak: With respect to the Lemon Creek spill, there is ongoing monitoring that we are undertaking as the Ministry of Environment, ongoing remediation, together with organizations in the community.

Hon. M. Polak: With respect to the Lemon Creek spill, there is ongoing monitoring that we are undertaking as the Ministry of Environment, ongoing remediation together with organizations in the community. The member well knows that,

We have been the government in Canada leading with respect to not only land-based spills response but also research on marine spills response. That is why when the federal government released its most recent strategy with respect to spills in the marine environment — you know what they did? — they adopted the very same research materials that we had produced by asking Nuka Research to conduct the most thorough research with respect to marine spills ever undertaken on the coast of British Columbia.

That’s what this B.C. Liberal government has done, because we are standing strong on our five conditions.

Madame Speaker: Vancouver–West End on a supplemental.

S. Chandra Herbert: Yet again, talk, talk, talk while the gas is in the water. How is that action? That’s talk; that is not action. That is not leadership, unless you count leading in letting oil and gas stay in the water.

The recent coal spill. Let’s talk about another project that this government has bungled.

The recent coal spill in Burnaby’s Silver Creek — yet another example of the Liberals’ attempt to talk big and do nothing when it comes to protecting our air, land and waters.

The Liberals let the railway company that spilled the coal hire their own consultant to try to clean it up. Then when the government came back and took a look, they realized that no, the biologist said, the company’s action was inadequate, and wait a second. Oh, we’d waited so long that nothing could be done to actually collect the evidence to properly repair that stream, properly bring back the turtles, because the evidence had washed further down the creek and into the lake.

If the Liberals can’t even properly manage a coal spill or a gas spill, how are we ever going to trust them to manage an oil spill?

Hon. M. Polak: One of the unfortunate realities for the opposition is that they are unable to take a clear position with respect to how they are going to address resource development in this province.

On this side of the House we have taken action with respect to our five conditions, with respect to land-based spills response. Not just including hazardous materials like oil, but also in the matter of materials like coal, it is our government that has led on polluter-pay. It is this Ministry of Environment that has worked with rail companies, with the federal government, to ensure that the land-based spills response policy intentions paper reflects the best available science and response that we can produce in North America.

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