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As Council tour warns of oil spill dispersants, Harper set to loosen the rules on their use

Foytlin speaks in the Bay of Fundy community of Cornwallis, Nova Scotia on October 27. Photo by Tori Ball.

The Council of Canadians speaking tour against the TransCanada Energy East pipeline project in Atlantic Canada has featured Cherri Foytlin, a resident of south Louisiana and author of Spill It! The Truth About the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion.

Foytlin has commented, “After a storm, we still have oil in our wetlands and on our beaches. Sea turtles and dolphins continue to wash ashore at an unprecedented rate. Our fisheries and fishing families are still trying to recover. Worse still, an untold number of people – clean-up workers and residents, children and grandmothers – are chronically ill from the heavy use of a chemical dispersant applied to the oil during the spill.”

During our tour, she told residents of the Bay of Fundy area to be aware of this issue of chemical dispersants. In Saint John, she told the audience, “Up to this day we have high mortality of our local marine species. They don’t tell you that in their impact assessment.”

After our tour was launched in Halifax, Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue wrote, “While the oil spilled in [the Gulf of Mexico] clearly had an impact, and still is, [Cherri] warned of the chemicals used to disperse the oil. She described her daughter as having kidney stones, frontline communities that fish in the waters and people eating the fish with lesions, children experience asthma for the first time, autoimmune disorders. Cherri talked about how communities can’t even access the scientific evidence to support their experiences because everything is tied up in legal battles. how people are witnessing the impacts on the fisheries, oil still washing ashore in storms, dead marine life, shrimp without eyes and on their health.”

Now – with Bill C-22 – the Harper government is on the verge of loosening the rules on the use of chemical dispersants in oil spill ‘clean-ups’ in Canadian waters.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Corexit, was heavily used in both the 1989 Alaska Exxon Valdez and 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico spills. It has subsequently been linked to health problems with clean-up workers. Although never used on a large scale in Canada, it is the industry’s dispersant of choice for major oil spills and is approved for use in Canadian waters.”

“Bill C-22 is awaiting third and final reading in the House of Commons. …Under current law, following an offshore oil spill, industry would call an emergency contact line, which then would contact federal environment minister Leona Aglukkaq for dispersant approval. …Under the new law, each province would have its own petroleum board and dispersant use could be pre-approved. That would mean that if an offshore spill were to happen, no phone calls would be needed [to authorize the use of this toxic dispersant].”

The article highlights the context for this: “Three pipeline projects propose bringing increased tanker traffic to our shores, and with an increase in exports comes an increased threat for spills. Northern Gateway, Energy East and Trans Mountain will deliver huge volumes of Alberta oil to Canadian coastlines [for export by supertanker].”

The Council of Canadians tour against the Energy East pipeline continues in Fredericton on Tuesday and Edmundston on Thursday.

Photo: Foytlin speaks in the Bay of Fundy community of Cornwallis, Nova Scotia on October 27. Photo by Tori Ball.