B.C. motorists buying gas for “non-essential” vehicles will be limited to 30 litres per station visit on Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, the southwest B.C. mainland and the Sunshine Coast until Dec. 1, while three highways will be restricted to essential travel only after a storm caused catastrophic damage to roads and infrastructure.
Essential vehicles will have unrestricted access to gas via cardlock gas stations, which allow 24-hour automated access to fuel for businesses.
The B.C. government order applies to all fuel suppliers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, as well as the Lower Mainland-to-Hope region, the Sea-to-Sky region, and the Sunshine Coast. Suppliers are being instructed to set up methods to restrict gasoline sales.
The essential-travel restrictions apply to the hardest-hit sections of Highway 99, Highway 3 and Highway 7, which connect the Lower Mainland with the Interior and the North. The routes will continue to have work crews on site and traffic is expected to be slow.
“If you don’t need to be travelling right now, don’t,” Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said Friday.
“And if you can’t do that, carpool or take public transit or work from home, because if you don’t need to travel, then you won’t need that gas.”
Farnworth didn’t answer questions about how close the province is to running out of gas, saying only that if people follow the orders, issued under the provincial emergency act, “we will be fine.”
“It’s 10 to 11 days where we have to pull together as a province, particularly here in the Lower Mainland,” said Farnworth. “If we do that, we will succeed. If we’re greedy, we’ll fail. It’s that simple. But I know what most British Columbians are going to do — they’re going to do the right thing.”
Those who break the rules could be fined, with details to be released soon, although Farnworth said: “This is not about enforcement — we can’t have a police officer at every gas station.”
The supply of gasoline is reduced but steady, said Farnworth, who asked people to be “kind and patient” at gas stations. The order does not affect natural gas or oil used to heat homes.
Essential travel includes commercial transport of goods, moving essential supplies such as food and water, fuel and medical supplies, and transporting livestock and agricultural supplies.
The province is working with the federal government to bring more fuel into B.C., including by truck and barge from Alberta, Washington state, Oregon and California, said Farnworth.
The majority of fuel in the province, refined and unrefined, comes from Alberta via pipeline, rail or truck. All three sources were cut off after Sunday and Monday’s torrential downpours washed out roads, flooded towns and weakened critical infrastructure.
CP Rail has reported it is making good progress repairing its lines and plans to reopen mid next week, which will have a “tremendous impact,” said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming.
The province is working hard in places such as Merritt, Princeton and the Cowichan Valley “to get these communities back on their feet,” said Farnworth. Crews are working “day and night.”
Many gas stations in the capital region were out of fuel on Friday — with the gas pumps closed off and price signs reading 0.0 — while others saw a third day of long lineups.
The Trans Mountain Pipeline remained shut down Friday. The company said about 200 people are working around the clock to get the pipeline up and running. Fleming said the company has reported that it hopes to restart the pipeline “in some capacity” by the end of next week. Teams are beginning helicopter operations near Merritt to remove fallen trees and debris that are hampering detailed inspection of the pipeline, the company said.