Paul Liberatore

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Oil spill could cost Vancouver over $1 billion

A major oil spill in the waters around Vancouver could cost the city’s economy over $1 billion, according to a study released today.

The study, by researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre, was commissioned by the City of Vancouver and is part of the municipality’s body of evidence against Kinder Morgan’s plan to expand an existing pipeline that terminates in Burnaby.

That plan would result in more oil tankers plying the waters of Burrard Inlet, from a current average of five per month to 35 per month.

The study took a look at the impact of a 16 million-litre oil spill at the First or Second Narrows of Burrard Inlet in May, and analyzed the impact on commercial fishing; Vancouver’s port; inner harbour transportation; and tourism and recreation. The study modelled the scenarios over a 25 year period.

The study determined that commercial fishing would take between one and two years to recover fully from a spill, while port operations would likely be back to normal in just two to four days. Tourism would take anywhere between eight months to five years to recover.



A spill that occurred between May and September would have a greater economic impact on ocean-related economic activities like fishing, according to the report. Examples of economic impacts from a major oil spill could include the complete closure of the Dungeness crab fishery, float plane operators having to cancel flights, and fewer tourists visiting the city.

The report also notes that it has been estimated that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would contribute $1.8 billion of direct and indirect economic benefits to Vancouver's economy over 25 years.

An earlier economic impact study commissioned by the Vancouver Economic Commission, the City of Vancouver’s economic development wing, considered the effects a spill could have on tourism, fisheries, retail and real estate values.

Cleanup costs could be as high as $60,000 a tonne, according to the report, and the majority of the businesses affected by a spill would not be eligible for compensation.

On April 9, a cargo ship spilled an estimated 2,700 litres of bunker fuel in the waters of English Bay. Beaches throughout the Metro Vancouver area were closed for several days following the spill.


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