B.C. oil spill advisory committee dominated by industry, say New Democrats

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VICTORIA — While briefing documents show the province’s oil spill response regime is already inadequate, the B.C. Liberal response is to stack the advisory committee tasked with fixing it with representatives from the oil industry, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“Before the election, the Liberals claimed that diverse stakeholders would be involved in oil spill response preparedness planning, and even invited a broad range of groups to participate in a symposium on the issue,” said New Democrat environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert. “Yet now, after the election, it’s a different story: with the exception of First Nations representation, their advisory groups are almost entirely composed of people promoting the industry they are meant to be regulating.”

Documents obtained from the environment ministry by New Democrats show that the government’s oil spill advisory committee and working groups are heavily dominated by the oil industry, with 80 per cent of the members of the advisory committee, and nearly everyone on the three working groups, representing oil industry interests.

“The government is allowing the oil industry to dominate the discussion, when a major spill would devastate not only our environment but other key industries like fishing and tourism, whose interests should be represented at the table,” said Chandra Herbert.

Chandra Herbert also raised concerns about briefing materials prepared for the new environment minister and revealed through a freedom of information request this week showing the province is ill-equipped to handle even a moderate spill. Ministry officials warn that the province “is not adequately staffed and resourced to meet the existing and emerging expectations to address spills,” and suggest that even a moderate-sized spill “would overwhelm the province’s ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government.”

“How long has the government known that it is unable to respond to oil spills in this province? How do they square this with their continued assurances about industry safety? And what are they doing to advocate for better resources from Ottawa?” asked Chandra Herbert.

“When it comes to sustainable development, this government hasn’t delivered on its promises, and their oil spill response program is another sad example. Again and again, they have failed to stand up for our environment.”

New Democrats are calling on the government to fulfill its promise of sustainable development, starting with a strong spill response regime that protects the interests of all British Columbians.

Attachment: spill_response_committees.pdf