The federal government is making good on its promise to legislate a moratorium on oil tankers in the Pacific Northwest. It has introduced Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which will prohibit oil tankers carrying crude and persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports from the southern tip of the Alaska panhandle to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
Bill C-48, introduced on May 12, 2017, puts another nail in the coffin of the Northern Gateway Pipeline project, something that dismays the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). But it’s not necessarily the final nail, to the dismay of the West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL).
CAPP says the moratorium is unnecessary in light of enhanced marine safety response programs and the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan. It says the moratorium could impair the export of emerging light, tight oil resources, which are now being produced in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
WCEL worries that Bill C-48 gives the government too much wiggle room. The Bill gives the government broad powers to exempt identified oil tankers from the ban on any terms and for any period of time. Theoretically, WCEL argues, this could allow wide-ranging, large-scale exemptions that would render the moratorium meaningless.
The government has also allowed itself the freedom to use regulations to add or subtract from the list of persistent oils subject to the ban. Crude oil is banned specifically in the legislation and that provision cannot be altered except by an Act of Parliament.
As expected, the moratorium applies only to vessels carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil as cargo. This will ensure that oil supplies to coastal communities are not affected and that all existing traffic will be allowed to continue unimpaired.