First Nations group marks Exxon Valdez anniversary with an anti-pipeline campaign

Pipeline politics are alive and well on the west coast of British Columbia.

On Sunday, the Coastal First Nations marked the anniversary of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill with an ad campaign meant to convince British Columbians to rally against the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline and oil tankers off the coast.

The group plans to air the ad on television networks along the proposed pipeline route in northern B.C..

"We thought it was appropriate to release the commercial on the 24th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska," Art Sterritt, of the Coastal First Nations, said in a statement referencing one of the world's worst oil spills.

"A lot of people don’t realize that taxpayers will be left paying upwards of $21.4 billion dollars if there’s a spill.

"Each tanker is owned and operated by a small holding company to limit financial liability. Taxpayers are left holding the bag, and our communities are left with a permanently polluted environment."

Enbridge predicts the Gateway pipeline would increase tanker traffic into Kitimat's marine terminal by 220 crude tankers annually.

Last week, the Harper government – which has promoted the idea of a pipeline to the west coast – announced 8 new measures that, they say, will make Canada a world-leader in spill response.

[ Related: Harper government announces new rules on oil tanker safety ]

Of note, the government will expand the National Aerial Surveillance Program, a fleet of aircrafts that keeps an eye out for illegal discharges of pollution at sea. The Feds will also appoint a "Tanker Safety Expert Panel" to advise the government on best-practices. Moreover, all ships – whether they’re Canadian-owned or foreign-owned – will now require annual inspections.

Meanwhile, the Federal environmental and regulatory review into the $6-billion pipeline is continuing in British Columbia.

[ Related: BC ends pipeline cross-examination with many unanswered questions ]

The review panel’s report and recommendations are expected to be tabled by the end of this year.

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