Andrew Weaver, has formally applied as an official intervener for the National Energy Board hearings on the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Intervener status provides the opportunity to submit evidence, to question the company, experts and presenters on their submissions, and to request the information necessary to ensure the panel reaches a fully informed decision.
As the elected representative of a coastal riding Dr. Weaver has applied to represent his constituents’ concerns on the potential economic and environmental impacts of a marine oil spill, including impacts on private and public property and on local industries such as fisheries and tourism (see below).
As one of Canada’s leading scientists with expertise in physical oceanography, Dr. Weaver has also applied to present and to question evidence surrounding existing response capacity to marine heavy oil spills (see below).
Kinder Morgan is proposing twinning the current pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to their facility in Burnaby BC, transporting diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the oil sands for export to Asian markets. Currently the pipeline has a capacity of 300 000 barrels per day, with five tankers per month transiting Vancouver harbour, the Salish Sea and Juan de Fuca. The expansion would mean a huge increase to 890 000 barrels per day, resulting in 34 tankers per month.
There already have been concerns raised about the pipeline route and harbour terminal traffic, but a recent report by the Puget Sound Partnership highlighted the risk of a shipping incident potentially causing a marine oil spill. That risk is now considered high (increase of 68%) due to the vastly increased traffic from the Kinder Morgan terminal in Vancouver, expansion at Delta Port and the Gateway Pacific terminal at Cherry Point in Washington State.
Oak Bay – Gordon Head constituents have overwhelmingly voiced concerns about dilbit tanker traffic through the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Any spill in the area would have a dramatic impact for property owners along the foreshore, beach users, local fisheries and tourism. Those concerns have been echoed by residents, municipalities and businesses up and down the coast.
How DilBit behaves in a marine environment is not fully understood, although recent studies have shown it sinks when mixed with sediments, making clean up and recovery extremely difficult. Three years after the Kalamazoo River spill, submerged DilBit is still being pulled from the river bed. How will Kinder Morgan address a marine incident, and potential spill? What are the economic impacts should one occur? How will tides and currents affect the trajectory of a spill, and can submerged oil be recovered? Those questions and more must be answered.
1) Application as the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head
As a Member of the Legislative Assembly of B.C., Dr. Weaver represents Oak Bay-Gordon Head (OBGH) on the south-east coast of Vancouver Island. OBGH falls along the proposed route for heavy oil tankers transporting diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the Trans Mountain pipeline to international markets.
Constituents of OBGH have overwhelmingly voiced concerns about dilbit tanker traffic along the coast of their riding. Those who have personal property along the coast and those who use public beaches will be significantly and directly affected by a potential marine dilbit spill. As their elected representative, Dr. Weaver has a responsibility to represent his constituents’ concerns to the panel, to cross-examine other Parties, to request necessary information and to report back to his constituents.
Furthermore, Dr. Weaver is also Deputy Leader of the BC Green Party (BCGP). The BCGP received 28% of the vote on Southern Vancouver Island during the 2014 provincial election, making it a significant representative body for voters throughout the region. As Deputy Leader, Dr. Weaver represents over 45,000 people on Southern Vancouver Island who voted for BCGP candidates who ran on the same platform to raise concerns about dilbit tanker traffic along the coast, many of whom have property directly along the proposed tanker route.
Existing evidence suggests dilbit sinks when mixed with sediments. Reports from the Kalamazoo River clean up state that submerged dilbit still has not been fully recovered, three years after the spill occurred. An oil spill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca would significantly and directly impact the lives of Dr. Weaver’s constituents with property along the coast and of those who frequent beaches in OBGH. A dilbit spill would likely have a longer-lasting impact than refined oils due to difficulties in accessing submerged dilbit for recovery.
Concerns voiced by OBGH constituents and BCGP voters have included but are not limited to:
As an elected representative it’s Dr. Weaver’s responsibility to represent these concerns and questions to the review panel. Dr. Weaver will require intervener status in order to cross-examine Parties, provide evidence and request necessary information so that he can fully and adequately meet this responsibility.
2) Application as an expert
Efforts have been made to assess BC’s preparedness for a diluted bitumen (dilbit) spill. Existing studies paint an incomplete picture of current knowledge and therefore require further supplementation to clearly outline existing knowledge and gaps in research.
Dr. Weaver holds a PhD in applied mathematics with a focus on ocean, atmosphere and climate dynamics. His early work examined the physical oceanography of coastal waters including the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He has a long, documented career of published expertise in physical ocean science as a Professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria and prior to that, as a Professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill.
Dr. Weaver is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the American Meteorological society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2011 A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science. He is considered one of the world’s experts in ocean circulation modeling and has served on numerous national and international committees in this regard. He has published extensively in oceanographic journals including: Journal of Physical Oceanography; the Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research; Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology; Progress in Oceanography; Ocean and Coastal Management; Journal of Marine Research; Ocean Modelling; and Atmosphere-Ocean. As an internationally-regarded scientist, Dr. Weaver has advised local, provincial and international governments on science-based policy. He was a Lead Author on four of the five reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and recently co-authored an expert panel report for the Royal Society of Canada on “Sustaining Canadian marine biodiversity.” Dr. Weaver also participated in an oceanographic cruise in the Strait of Georgia, Discovery Passage, Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait.
Dr. Weaver’s internationally-regarded expertise in physical oceanography and his experience in advising governments on science-based policy uniquely qualify him to intervene on issue 5 and to recommend terms and conditions for project approval under issue 8, particularly as these pertain to research on dilbit in marine environments, the likely impact of a potential spill in BC coastal waters, and gaps in research.
Meanwhile, the economic viability of the pipeline (Issue 2) depends on the economic viability of the upstream oil production. Investors world-wide, have warned about a carbon bubble, whereby global emissions targets will prevent the development of assets that contribute to carbon emissions, raising questions about the viability of long-term oil sands development and the wider economic threat from frozen carbon-based assets. These warnings have been echoed by reports from HSBC and statements from the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim. As one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, Dr. Weaver has been at the forefront of domestic laws and international agreements regarding carbon emissions making him well-positioned to intervene on the likelihood of a carbon bubble undermining the economic feasibility of the project.