Cantwell Urges President Obama to Engage Canada on Trans Mountain Pipeline, Protect US Waters, Economy

Cantwell: US lacks “the necessary oil spill prevention and response technologies” to clean up tar sands oil spill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged the president to take action regarding Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. Specifically, the letter asks President Obama to directly engage with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and call on the Canadian government to ensure adequate protections are in place to mitigate oil spill risk in Washington state.

“A tar sands oil spill would create far reaching environmental and economic consequences in the Pacific Northwest.,” Cantwell wrote in the letter. “Given the importance of the Pacific Coast to the United States, I urge you to engage with Prime Minister Trudeau and take action to protect the Puget Sound.  It is critical that sufficient policies, response resources and regulations are in place before moving forward with construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.”

In her letter, Cantwell points out that expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is projected to nearly triple capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of crude oil a day and increase vessel traffic along the Pacific Coast by seven-fold, with each tanker holding more than twenty-five million gallons of oil.  However, the U.S. and Canada do not have the technologies or capabilities to clean-up a tar sands oil spill. In addition, advocates of the project have yet to outline how to best equip first responders in the event of a spill.

With no current response technologies capable of cleaning-up a tar sands oil spill, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project would put the multibillion dollar Pacific coastal economies at even greater risk. Oil spills have the potential to collapse fisheries, devastate the Pacific Northwest tourism industry and pose a direct threat to key species such as the endangered Southern resident orcas. In addition to impacts to the fishing and tourism industries, an oil spill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or the transboundary Salish Sea could restrict vessel traffic to such a degree that Washington state ports could be brought to a grinding halt, leading to overwhelming impacts on both the Washington state and national economies.

Cantwell’s letter also expressed significant concern regarding the impact a tar sands oil spill would have on Tribal fisheries in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. Additional tankers carrying Canadian tar sands oil would transit adjacent to usual and accustomed fishing grounds of critical importance to Pacific Northwest Tribes. 

“It is our treaty trust responsibility to protect Tribal fishing rights against the risks posed by increasing foreign oil tankers transiting our waterways.”  Cantwell said in the letter.

Full text of the letter can be found here.