VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The provincial government has invited 13 key stakeholder groups to a meeting today to talk about cleaning up oil spills. Many local environmental groups are wondering why they have not been asked to be a part of the high-level discussion.

The province says it wants to create a world-leading response plan to deal with oil spills and other hazardous materials. Federal representatives from Environment Canada, Transport Canada, and the Canadian Coast Guard are also participating.

“The environmental groups in BC are the watchdogs of the industry,” maintains Gwen Barlee with the Wilderness Committee. “And we’re the ones who have been really flagging concerns around the Enbridge pipeline, the massive increase in the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

“And so here you have a meeting with Environment Minister Terry Lake,” she continues. “And who you see at that meeting [discussing] oil spills and hazardous materials spills and how that should be handled in BC… you see representatives from the Association of Petroleum Producers, the Energy Pipeline Association.”

Canadian Fuels Association, Railway Association of Canada, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, BC Oil and Gas Commission, Chamber of Shipping British Columbia, BC Environmental Industry Association, and BC Trucking Association will also be at the meeting.

Christianne Wilhelmson with the Georgia Strait Alliance says she wants the provincial environment minister to know environmental groups “need to be at the table if, in fact, we are going to include a made-in-BC response” to a potential oil spill on the coast.

She tells us today’s meeting seems to focus on clean-up, but she believes the focus should be on prevention.

Minister Lake says environmental protection is his number-one priority, “as evidenced by the response to
public hearings on NGP (Northern Gateway Pipeline).”

“This is why we are not stopping at the establishment of five key conditions for heavy oil pipelines, and are developing world-leading policy that deals with all land-based hazardous materials spills including those from trucks, rail cars, home oil tanks and chemical spills,” he explains.

Environmental groups have been invited to a symposium in Vancouver in March, which will include spill-response experts from around the world.

“Today’s meeting and the future symposium represent a great opportunity for industry to demonstrate to its customers, clients, shareholders and the public its commitment to sustainability,” says Lake.