Now Even More, Supertanker Port A Bad Idea

Editorials & Opinion: Thursday, August 08, 1991

 

IN THE early 1970s, concern about the potential impact of an oil spill from tanker traffic in Rosario Strait led to a politically popular concept of an oilport at or west of Port Angeles to serve the Washington refineries by pipeline.

The theory to “save” Puget Sound from oil spills was based on the belief that oil spills in the Strait of Juan de Fuca would move westward, or out to the ocean. In December 1985, there was a spill of 239,000 gallons of crude oil at Port Angeles by the ARCO Anchorage. That spilled oil moved predominantly eastward into Puget Sound.

Now Washington state has experienced a major oil spill northwest of Cape Flattery, where a sunken Japanese fish-processing factory ship, the Tenyo Maru, leaked thousands of gallons.

Again, the movement of the oil was eastward, then southward from the spill. It fouled the rugged and beautiful beaches of our western coast, causing great harm to the diverse wildlife of this pristine area.

Despite the eastward movement of oil from these spills, a Canadian company, Trans Mountain Pipe Line Co. Ltd., continues to propose a supertanker port 18 miles west of Port Angeles, at Low Point.

(Supertankers cannot now enter the strait for two reasons: There are no offloading facilities to handle that size of ship; and by law, supertankers are not allowed to enter our state waters east of a line that extends between Dungeness Spit, off Port Angeles, and Victoria.)

Trans Mountain’s document describing its proposal states that there is a less than 5 percent chance that a spill at Low Point would move eastward, thereby “greatly reducing the risk to the environmentally sensitive waters of the inner Puget Sound.” The oil from the Tenyo Maru has again proved this theory wrong.

Most environmental groups have passed resolutions opposing the Trans Mountain proposal. The company says that these groups are acting out of emotion and that the current proposal differs significantly from the 1979 version. This is not true.

Our opposition has not diminished over the past 12 years. We are faced with a proposal almost identical to the one withdrawn by Trans Mountain in 1979. Both proposals include:

— Two mooring buoys, two miles off Low Point.

— Pipeline throughput capacity of 800,000 barrels a day.

— Use of Exxon Valdez class of tankers (200,000-plus deadweight tons).

— Six miles of underwater pipeline crossings at Admiralty Inlet and Saratoga Passage.

Our opposition continues to rest primarily on the same concerns we had in 1979:

— Geological hazards.

— Unknown safeguards for underwater crossings.

— Tank farms and vessel loading at Low Point would adversely impact the air quality of the Olympic National Park.

— Threats to sole-source aquifers of Whidbey, Marrowstone and Camano Islands.

Yet this pipeline company insists that restriction of tanker traffic from Rosario Strait would protect our state waters from spills. The most recent spill off our coast proves that oil-spills happen throughout Washington waters.

Therefore, the only real oil-spill protection we can afford our “waters of the state” is through such mechanisms as stricter tanker and barge safety regulations and stricter enforcement and expansion of the Vessel Traffic System. Many of these regulations will be implemented by our new federal and state oil-spill-prevention bills.

Most of all, we are opposed to the pipeline project because it is unjustifiable to increase the infrastructure of a Canadian oil company in Washington before we have done our best to reduce our own oil dependency.

In the long run, we can best prevent spills by curbing our appetite for oil, and by instilling in our society a more responsible approach toward use of petroleum products.

It is human need we must address – not human greed.

Darlene Madenwald is president of the Washington Environmental Council. Fred Felleman is a conservation biologist with the American Oceans Campaign.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

~ by fredfelleman on August 8, 1991.

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