Why is Islands Trust Council opposed to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project?
The Islands Trust is a federation of local government bodies created by provincial legislation in 1974 in recognition of the unique fragility of the ecology of the 470 Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea. Twenty-six thousand people live within the Islands Trust Area and another 10,000 are non-resident property owners.
The Islands Trust Council is opposed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project. Islands Trust trustees and San Juan County councilors recently wrote jointly urging Prime Minister Trudeau to abandon the expansion project. Below are key quotes from reputable reports.
Trust Council’s previous advocacy on this topic is available here.
1. The Salish Sea
- “Estuarine areas like the Strait of Georgia are among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world due to fresh water and ocean water mixing and upwelling to create a nutrient-rich marine environment. The southern Strait of Georgia... is among the finest areas globally for scuba diving, whale watching, sea kayaking and coastal cruising.”
2. Potential impacts to Southern Resident Killer Whales
- “Our analysis shows that the Project will intensify existing threats, accelerating the rate of decline in the Southern Residents and possibly leading to a complete extinction.”
- “The modeled impact of noise and physical disturbance accompanying increased or added vessel traffic associated with the Project resulted in accelerated population decline, smaller mean population size, and increased probability of complete and quasi extinction.”
- Combined effects from toxic pollution, noise and disturbance from boat traffic, and decline in chinook stock are “interconnected in a way that suggests an even greater impact on the killer whale population than can be predicted by studying any one factor by itself”.
- Project is inconsistent with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s principal objectives for southern resident killer whale population recovery.
- “If the government of Canada does build the Trans Mountain pipeline, it must do so knowing this decision clearly jeopardizes Canada’s greatest salmon river and a fish considered the lifeblood of British Columbia.”
3. Diluted Bitumen and Spills
Check out this Salish Sea Spill Map.
- “Bitumen submerged beneath the sea surface is much more difficult to track as it disperses within receiving waters to shorelines, the seafloor, and the open ocean”
- Diluted bitumen spills pose particular challenges when they reach water bodies and further research is required in order to adequately prepare for spills response planning and implementation.
- NAS conclusion: “there are no proven techniques for containment of suspended or sunken crude oil to prevent remobilization and spreading prior to recovery” and effective techniques for detection, containment and recovery of submerged and sunken oils in water bodies have yet to be developed.
- “Research gaps are significant. The data needed to assess oil spill risks in Canada are often either absent or widely scattered among government agency, industry, and academic sources. Information needed to reliably assess the environmental sensitivity of areas at risk from oil spills is also very limited.”
- “A credible worst-case spill (16,000m3) of diluted bitumen would cause heaving shoreline oiling on tens of kilometers of beaches in the Gulf Island and Strait of Juan de Fuca, and less severe but still substantial oiling on hundred of kilometers. A large diluted bitumen spill anywhere along the tanker route through the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca would almost certainly kill substantial numbers of marine mammals, especially harbour seals and harbour porpoises. Exposure of individual killer whales, however, could have adverse population-level consequences for this already endangered stock, where premature loss of just one individual could significantly contribute to the jeopardy of the stock. The sediment structure of armoured beaches is especially conducive to trapping and retaining diluted bitumen. If oil penetrates beneath the surfaces of beaches, especially at undocumented locations as is very likely should a large spill occur along the tanker route through the Gulf Islands or the Strait of Juan De Fuca, persistent retention of the oil may lead to unanticipated encounters by the public over the course of decades. Such encounters degrade tourism values, especially in national parks such as the Gulf Islands.”
- Response gap (estimated percentage of time each year that on-water oil spill recovery operations would be impeded or completely shut down due to weather or environmental conditions) for Strait of Georgia estimated to be 47-61% of the time (63% in winter).
- There is no location along the TMP tanker route where on-water oil spill response will always be possible.
- In winter, response not possible between 56% and 78% of the time along tanker route.
- If a spill occurs during a time when response gap conditions exist, the unmitigated oil slick will remain in the environment until conditions improve. If the response gap conditions extend for several days, there may be not any opportunity for on-water recovery.
- Recovery estimates for winter spills in Georgia Strait show only 15-16% of a 16,000m3 spill would be recovered within 3 days of the spill (this estimate does not incl shoreline stranding).
- On-water recovery capacity is reduced in winter by as much as 50% compared to summer. Changes to diluted bitumen density and viscosity within the first few days of the release may render oil spill response systems ineffective.”
4. Climate Change
- Fact: Canada’s climate targets can’t be met with continued mining of Alberta tar sands and construction of new pipelines to service.
- Oil and gas sector is greatest contributor to Canada’s GHG emissions.
Wildfires related to climate change:
- Estimated that human-caused climate change contributed to an additional 4.2 million hectares of forest fire area in western US forest between 1984-2015, nearly doubling the forest fire area expected in its absence.
- “Anthropogenic climate change accounted for ~55% of observed increases in fuel aridity from 1979 to 2015 across western US forests.”
- 1990 study investigated the impact of climate change on the severity of forest fire season in Canada.
- Using CO2 levels double those of 1990 levels (based on assumption that CO2 concentrations will double by 2040), the study estimated a 46% increase in the seasonal severity rating, with a possible similar increase in area burned.
- “Global warming creates conditions that feed wildfires. It has led to earlier snowmelts in the West, increased temperatures in summer and spring and drier conditions, research shows. That has sparked more frequent wildfires that last longer. And that increase in wildfires has increased fine particle air pollution.”