Her yellow rain gear smeared with crude oil, Valerie Langer is standing on the red carpet in the BC legislature lobby. In her gloved hand is a dead oil-soaked seabird. Flecks of oil hit the freshly painted wall as she gesticulates. A distressed commissionaire scurries about wiping up spots of oil, while explaining that the Environment Minister is not in his office today.
It’s January 1989, just weeks after the Nestucca oil spill. During the holidays, the Nestucca oil barge rammed it’s own tugboat in Washington state after a cable snapped. The US Coast Guard ordered the leaking barge be towed out to sea. 5,500 barrels of oil were spilled. The spill could not be contained or tracked because the oil floated just below the surface. In the early days of January, to everyone’s surprise and horror, the spill began to wash ashore near Tofino.
The Nestucca spill was ‘only’ 5,500 barrels. Within months the Exxon-Valdez had spilled 257,000 barrels—almost 50 times bigger, enough to cover virtually the entire length of the BC coast. If Enbridge builds their pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat, 225 supertankers per year, each carrying up to 2 million barrels of bitumen oil, would snake through the coastal archipelago and eventually travel offshore of Vancouver Island. The spectre of an oil spill 350 times the size of the Nestucca spill is not acceptable—the remote rugged coastline, and the nature of the bitumen oil itself, would make clean up impossible.
Some things have changed in Clayoquot Sound since 1989. Sea otters, not seen in the Sound since the early 1900s, have returned. So have humpback whales. Eco-tourism has flourished and become the driving economic force. The area has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
There’s one thing that hasn’t changed. People around the world still feel a deep love for this place. Friends of Clayoquot Sound are part of the groundswell of opposition to Enbridge’s proposal. Together, let’s keep Clayoquot Sound oil-free.
–FOCS Campaigns Director