Great Lakes oil transport is a sinking ship: report

April 19, 2016
Media Release

Sinking Ship: A summary of legislation governing oil shipping across the Great Lakes and through the St. Lawrence River Basin

Both Canada and the U.S. are ill-equipped to respond to spills from oil shipments on the Great Lakes, according to the new report Sinking Ship: A Summary of Legislation Governing Oil Shipping across the Great Lakes and through the St. Lawrence River Basin by the Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project.

"Tar sands oil has been transported in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin without environmental assessments from the federal or provincial governments, under a regulatory system with gaping holes," says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "With low oil prices reducing the volume of shipments, now is the time to tighten safety regulations. Governments also need to develop a long-term plan to transition away from fossil fuels and keep oil shipments out of the Great Lakes."

The report, which found a patchwork of inadequate legislation, outlines federal, state and provincial laws on a range of safety issues including environmental assessments, spill prevention and preparedness, notification, inspection and spill response. It identified gaps in inspection, risk assessment, coordination and spill response capacity.

“The waters of the Great Lakes are a public trust, meaning all states and provinces must protect them. The high risk posed by oil shipments to the waters, the quality of life of local residents, and the economy must be eliminated,” says Jim Olson, Founder and President of Michigan-based FLOW for Water. “Crude oil cannot be transported over, in or on the Great Lakes – whether by ship or pipeline. There is ample capacity in existing on-land pipelines, which also carry great risk that must be prevented. States and provinces should not authorize any new or improved facilities for crude oil shipments, and should strictly scrutinize refined oil shipments.”

As the International Joint Commission began its semi-annual meeting yesterday, the Council of Canadians calls on the Commission to require governments to fill in regulatory gaps and coordinate community consultations on oil shipping in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin.

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For more information: Elizabeth Berman, 613-410-2853, eberman@canadians.org