Saturday, July 28, 2012

It can`t happen again can it? (Updated)

1989 in Prince William sound Alaska the Exxon Valdez ran aground on bligh reef, releasing 37,000(11 million gallons) tons of crude oil into a pristine marine wonderland, it shocked me then and saddens me today.

(Updated January 24/2010...In case you haven`t heard, because of Human error AGAIN, a major oil spill in Houston occured yesterday, 490,000 gallons, a barge ran into a tanker, a tiny spill though it is, the Enbridge pipeline would be bringing hundreds of Super Tankers larger than the Exxon Valdez plying our foggy,cruise ship laden inside waters every year, one accident, one human error ,one act of terrorism, one mentally deranged Captain and our west coast could be gone for hundreds of years, in fact there was a story out recently about the Valdez spill site,20 years later and heavy crude is still thick under all the rocks on shore, death and no recovery for fish,herring,shellfish, so in light of this latest spill I am re-posting this TRUE STORY) (read about the Houston Spill here)

Please read this link,look at the great pictures,20 years later, still heavy crude oil everywhere,

You know friends, sometimes I`m a little ruff with my stories, I`ve taken a lot of personal hits through my life and I really don`t have much left to lose, but I really am a big softy, I rescue cats,take them in,my oldest burmese cat is chasing 24 years of age, heck, had him longer than any relationship, ah but I digress, back in 1989,no internet, no 24 hour news channels for the masses and certainly T.V. coverage is not that of today but the images that came back from what coverage there was on this 35th largest oil spill in the world was gripping, the massive vessel hung up on a reef and this expanding oil slick, and days later the scenes grew and grew and then pictures of thousands of oiled birds,otters stiff dead, floating fish and my god, what have we done,madness, and the heroic but futile efforts of rescue and containment teams, the volunteers on the rocks in around the sound in coves,bays inlets, these futile attempts in steam cleaning individual rocks and sponging up globs of oil an ounce at a time, the wildlife scenes,the dead wildlife scenes grew and lingered and week after week these scenes were on T. V. and to this day the images are burned into memory.
Anyways, as you know by now the freighter Hebei Lion ran aground last week during a storm,winds were recorded between 90 and 120 kilometer per hour winds, the vessel dragged anchor and god damn we were real lucky, this sucker carries tonnes of heavy fuel, according to experts we were extra lucky,it hit Conconi reef in Navy channel near Mayne island and if not for the fact that it was at mid-low tide and rising, 12 hours later it would of been the reverse situation and we would be talking disaster!
And are we naive as people? Was it a fluke,one in a million bit of bad luck, yet I remember 1989, I wish I could forget, writing this story is bound to trigger a scary dream, damn this photographic memory, but I don`t have to go back that far to be alarmed, didn`t we have near hurricane winds that tore up Stanley park,the island, heck,I had 20 trees down on my road alone up here on the sunshine coast, landlocked for a week, what if it dragged anchor and grounded in one of those storms, maybe you figure I`m being paranoid, well being a salty dog for my entire life dad and I have witnessed,survived many flash storms on the coast,straight line winds that come up out of the blue, many times having to hide,run from the weather, tuck inside the lee of an island, on the west coast, Bamfield, jervis inlet, scary stuff but being in smaller boats,smaller compared to tankers,freighters, 30 40 foot nimble boats, the big boys can`t turn around in a hurry or hide, these storms cells aren`t the rareity but the norm in B.C..
Several friends of mine, my commercial fisherman buddies have told me stories of hacate straight, storms out of the blue,30 40 foot waves in an hour from calm, and today the Northern Adventure, part of our bc ferry fleet got stuck in a storm there,they had to turn around,several crew members had minor injuries and cars on the car deck got damaged from sliding around, man, that must of been one scary turn on that ferry, been there done that, Deborah Marshall bc ferry spokeswoman said when asked why the ferry was out in a storm that rough she responded " The forecast was for the storm to arrive much later than it did and the ferry got caught" and tonight my friends the ferry still isn`t running because of another storm but it can`t happen again can it?
Here is the start of the list of the 20 largest oil spills in the world,the Valdez ranked 35th and way way back in the amount of oil spilt.
Rank----ship name-------------------year--------location-----------spill size(tons)
  1. Atlantic Empress-----------1979----off Tobago,west-----------287.000
  2. ABT Summer-----------------1991-700 nautical miles off Angola---260.000
  3. Castillo de Bellver-----1983--off Saldanha bay,south Africa---252.000
  4. Amoca Cadiz----------------1978 off Brittany, France--------223.000
  5. Haven---------------------------1991--------Genoa, Italy------144.000
  6. Odyssy--------1988--700 nautical miles off Nova Scotia---132.000
  7. Torrey Canyon---------------1967-------Scicily isles, UK------119.000
  8. Sea Star-------------------------1972-------Gulf of Oman--------115.000
  9. Irene`s Seranade----1980-Navarino bay,greece--------100.000
  10. Urquiola----------1976-------La Coruna, Spain------------100.000
  11. Hawaiin Patriot----1989--300 nautical miles off Honolulu---95.000
  12. Independence------1979-------Bosphorous, Turkey------------95.000
  13. Jakob Maersk------1975-----Oporto,Portugal-------------------88.000
  14. Braer------1993-----Shetland islands, UK--------------------85.000
  15. Khark 5--1989------120 nautical miles off Atlantic coast of Morrocco 80.000
Vessels longer than football fields and able to carry enough oil to fill several hundred olympic sized pools,now after the Valdez went aground the US court mandated all vessels entering US waters must be double hulled by 2020, were not quite there yet,the Valdez was the most expensive clean-up in the history of oil spills even though it is only the 35th largest spill,tiny in comparison to the list above,the reason, our coast,coves,inlets,bays,wildlife,shellfish,salmon,birds otters,bears,first nations,generational families, the clean up cost estimated at 2.5 billion dollars,including fines and punitive damages it could be as high as 9.5 billion dollars,yet the case is still not settled,the US supreme court in 2007 decided to hear the case,Exxon mobil corp already had the 5 billion dollar awarded in 1994 by an Anchorage jury cut in half and they are still appealing that decision, from what I`ve read Exxon can drag this stuff out forever, it`s called risk management or business management issues,in other words they have so many lawyers on retainer it costs nothing to fight forever and as time goes by the award is shrinking purely with inflation and crude prices, they can fight forever, so if we had a catastrophic spill there is no one to pay for the clean up, I have read up on the practice of insurance on these supertankers, the maximum they are insured for is about 1 billion dollars but most are only insured for 150 million dollars and with the way these vessels are registered we would never find an owner or company to make us whole.
Yet even if they paid in full, exxon when oil was at 150$ per barrel they were making 40 billion$ plus per quarter they still won`t pay punitive damages, and how do you put a price on paradise, the inside passage, areas full of amazing life, history, local eco systems, my back yard, your childrens playground, maybe we should mandate those scenes from the Exxon Valdez spill be played weekly on tv as a reminder, force politicians and the public to view those horrific scenes over and over again, welcome to my world because I still see those visions,damn memory,what a wuuss I am, I`m getting teary eyed writing this and I watched saving private Ryan on KVOS tv last night again ,and I still teared up, where was I, and why am I bringing this up, it can`t happen again,can it? You know,I hope you`re aware that the Campbell gang is pushing that Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat and if that happens it means we will have supertankers plying our waters and I watched the estimate debates for the ministry of energy with Blair Leckstrom, and John Horgan, ndp energy critic and new leader of the ndp and John Horgan asked Blair Leckstrom direct questions, he asked if he and the campbell government were lobbying Ottawa to lift the moratorium on oil tankers on the BC coast and Leckstrom answered yes! He said that they were in favour of offshore oil n gas drilling and tanker traffic and he stated that if Ottawa sees fit to lift the moratorium they were prepared to safely operate,hmmm.
It can`t happen again can it, reading documents about tanker traffic it`s quite clear that the equipment is safe, technology,radar, GPS, modern navigating equipment, but the experts,I have the data, 75% of all oil spill accidents are human error, and nothing,no technology can stop that, maybe I`m paranoid,one in a million,the Hebei lion that just ran aground on thursday, the media completely missed the story, never even examined the potential threat, a 30 second sound bite when we were lucky beyond belief that we didn`t have a ecological disaster in the lower gulf islands but,one in a million right, or not, the captain of the Exxon Valdez was apparently drunk and snoozing and left a clueless crew mate in charge,oops, one in a million,it can`t happen again can it, almost forgot about the bc ferry crashing Horseshoe bay, and then there was the queen of the north, human error, I don`t know,they did hit an island,oops, monkey business on the bridge,who knows, they had the best and recently installed safety equipment,so much for technology
  1. 16--Aegean Sea----------------1992-------La Coruna, Spain---------------------------74.000 tons
  2. 17--Sea Empress--------------1996-------Milford Haven, UK------------------------72.000
  3. 18--Katina P--------------------1992------off Maputo, Mozambique----------------72.000
  4. 19--Nova-------------------------1985-----off Kharg island,gulf of Iran-------------70.000
  5. 20--Prestige---------------------2002------off the Spanish coast------------------------63,000
  6. 35th--Exxon Valdez---------1989-------Prince William sound---------------------37.000
Besides storms, human errors, accidents can happen while loading super tankers, one of the biggest risks is a collision between cruise ships and oil tankers,and we have a very busy cruise ship industry,everyday they`re are cruise ships plying the inside passage, yet by far the biggest risk is those one in a million human errors that can`t be stopped, it can`t happen again can it?
There is no fail safe, could you imagine if a big spill happened in our inside waters, not a little spill of 37,000 tons like the Valdez but 300,000 tons or more, our coast would be gone for generations,shellfish,birds, herring,bottom fish and those darn cute sea otters that I can`t get out of my head, what cost can you put on that, it would take decades to receive compensation, for a loss that we would never get back,and thats enough to get me all teary eyed again, can we take that chance,can we possibly risk losing what isn`t ours, can we gamble with future generations right to a green environment, our salmon and bears are already hurting, we could lose our pacific salmon without a spill what chance would the salmon have with the herring spawn dead, these forests,our rain forests depend on the salmon, our rain forests contain salmon nitrogen,there`s salmon in these rain forest giants,if the salmon go the bears go,the eagles go, my god,one in a million, human error, fog, equipment malfunction, hurricane force winds,isolated straight line winds.
We hardly have any fish compared to when I was a youth, yes,I remember yesterday, god damn it that`s why I get so angry because I can remember yesterday.
I dedicate this story to Alexandra Morten, this star has given her life to protect my soul, for without the salmon I am nothing, my mom,my dad are salmon to me, if i can write one story that can make a difference in this world I will die a happy man.
Let the Federal Government know that no pipeline is coming, if they want pitchforks,they`ll get them!.....Email environment minister here Environment Canada here

The Straight Goods
Cheers-Eyes wide Open


BC Mary said...

I'm glad you wrote this story, Grant. It's been bothering me a lot, that I couldn't find a way to stop on rushing events to pause, and give thanks, for our lucky escape from oil-spill disaster.

It's certainly B.C.'s wake-up call, and if the B.C. government isn't willing to share this critical information with the public, it's proof that Gordo's Gang values profits above every other consideration.

I'll share one of my personal nightmares, which has to do with oil spills. I once did a 7-year study on one aspect of WWII, the Dieppe Raid. Somewhere along the way, I came across a graph showing the types and sizes of ships which were SUNK in one year. Yes, we were correct in our horror of what the Exxon Valdez unleashed upon the environment ... but WAR had unleashed about 1,000 times worse upon the oceans ... as big ships (including oil tankers) were sunk by the dozens.

I made a copy of that graph and taped it up in my living room on Pender Island, because I simply couldn't wrap my head around the enormity of that disaster (which is also never mentioned in Ecology talks) ... neither could anybody else who saw that clear image ... and y'know what, Grant?

That awesome chart was for only the ALLIED ships sunk; it didn't include the big Nazi ships which we had triumphantly sunk, too. That means it was only about HALF of the total disaster.

So, for me, it's a comfort to read your story.

Anonymous said...

Kinder Morgan's Westridge Oil Terminal in Burrard Inlet has tankers unloading crude oil and jet fuel all the time.

The oil hauled by supertankers from Alaska traverses BC's west coast and lands at Cherry Point, WA. just a relative skip, hop, and jump from the BC border.

Will an oil terminal at Kitimat make any difference? Nope.

Grant G said...

Anon 8.45 am....I not quite sure what your comment means,is more not more? Just like planes and jets,not if but when, the safest tranport in the world and they keep crashing.

Thanks for the comment, I`m not ready to capitulate.

Kim said...

"Will an oil terminal at Kitimat make a difference?", you've never been to the Queen Charlottes have you? That magical place, with it's heritage villages (Ninstints) that were so beloved by Emily Carr has the most violent waters in the world. Tide changes in Hecate straight alone put the fear of God (or at least mortality) into the hearts of local sailors, add the many huge storms that blast directly into the region, fueled along the Aluetians and I will guarantee disaster.

Great article Grant G., I share your fear.

Gary E said...

What a great piece Grant. My memory is pretty good. Or was before the onset of senior years.
But you have helped me remember quite a bit here.
As far as lifting the tanker moratorium goes:

Lekstrom said "if Ottawa sees fit to lift the moratorium they were prepared to safely operate"
It has been the practice of the Campbell Cabal that when they make statements like this they lie. Show me the safety legislation Blair. Show me where we don't allow single hulled ships on our waters.

Laila Yuile said...

Good job Grant- I'm re-posting up a blog post that I did in July about the Enbridge pipeline,using your post here, and Paul Willcocks post, as openers. A great way to bring this issue back into the public light.

astro said...

Here is an article I saved from March 2008. I didn't save the author, but It is a brief history of the Exxon Valdez.

March 24: General Interest
1989 : Exxon Valdez runs aground

The worst oil spill in U.S. territory begins when the supertanker
Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, runs
aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An
estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water.
Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and
currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source,
eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of
thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the
environmental disaster.

It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the
Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an
uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990,
Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanor negligence, fined $50,000, and
ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an
Alaska court overturned Hazelwood's conviction, citing a federal
statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an
oil spill.

Exxon itself was condemned by the National Transportation Safety Board
and in early 1991 agreed under pressure from environmental groups to
pay a penalty of $100 million and provide $1 billion over a 10-year
period for the cost of the cleanup. However, later in the year, both
Alaska and Exxon rejected the agreement, and in October 1991 the oil
giant settled the matter by paying $25 million, less than 4 percent of
the cleanup aid promised by Exxon earlier that year.

Anonymous said...

Grant, here'sa good thing,from a reader of mine:

And few backgrounders for those not in the know- and yes, there still are far too many down here on the coast that haven't a clue about this, PAB exempt of course. These links contain more links to sites and tons of information.Watch for Enbridge in your stats as well, they troll frequently on their own PAB type employees.

And this one is really important: