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U.S. to study B.C. oil tanker traffic

VANCOUVER - Concerns in Washington state over oil tanker traffic from British Columbia have spurred a U.S. Coast Guard review of proposed increases in Canadian oil exports.

It's because of a legislative amendment proposed by Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell and recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It gives the U.S. marine safety agency six months to conduct a risk assessment of the increased marine traffic that will result from planned expansion of oil pipeline capacity to B.C.

While several proposed projects would see oil from the Alberta oil sands brought to the B.C. coast for export primarily to China, the legislation deals specifically with tanker traffic out of the Vancouver area.

The risk assessment will look at the potential increase in marine traffic and the spill response capacity in the region.

The U.S. Coast Guard will also analyze the toxicity of diluted bitumen — a heavy oil that critics say is more difficult to contain and clean up than crude or refined oil.

Kinder Morgan is proposing a $4-billion expansion that would more than double the capacity of its existing TransMountain pipeline that delivers oil from the Alberta oil sands to its terminal in Port Metro Vancouver.

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