B.C. extends fuel rationing with more rain expected in flood-soaked regions

The British Columbia government has extended a 30-litre fuel purchase limit until Dec. 14 in order to preserve supplies for emergency and essential vehicles responding to the heavy rains and severe flooding that have hit the southwest of the province.

The order was introduced on Nov. 19 and originally set to expire Dec. 1.

The rationing applies to both gas and diesel and limits buyers to 30 litres per trip to gas stations and fuel suppliers located in:

  • Lower Mainland
  • Hope.
  • Sea to Sky region.
  • Sunshine Coast.
  • Gulf Islands.
  • Vancouver Island.

Essential vehicles will continue to have unrestricted access to fuel as required, using predominantly commercial trucking or cardlock gas stations.

Trans Mountain pipeline still shut down

Government officials said continued rationing is needed because the Trans Mountain pipeline, which provides southwest B.C. with 85 per cent of its fuel for refining, remains shutdown from the recent floods and mudslides.

“Trans Mountain is expected to be back soon although they’ve had some minor setbacks,” said Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation.

“They have to make sure the pipeline is safe to operate before they re-engage. The plan is to bring it back at a reduced pressure, but they’re not ready to do that yet.”

In the meantime, the province has been bringing in supplemental gas and diesel from Alberta by rail and by barge from the United States. 

Ralston encouraged people to drive only if necessary, reduce gas consumption and to take public transit.

Hay bales float in the middle of a street surrounded by floodwaters in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 22. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

40-70 mm of rain expected 

Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, said rationing has been effective in overcoming the fuel supply challenges caused by the recent extreme rains, floods and mudslides. 

“People in this province have been doing the right thing,” he said. “Everybody should be really proud. We’ve been able to maintain emergency services and keep supply lines open.”

Farnworth said B.C. is also extending the state of emergency declaration to Dec. 14, with at least two more storms forecast to hit B.C. in the coming days.

The forecast is calling for another 40 to 70 millimetres of rain to fall on flood-soaked Abbotsford starting Tuesday, with even higher amounts in the surrounding mountains. 

“The system that we are tracking is an atmospheric river coming in from subtropic origins, the Philippines, and it will deliver a relatively strong punch similar to what we saw this weekend,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan.

“It’s not just a rain event; it’s not just a snow-melting event; it’s also a successive storm event… It will be problematic because [the storms] are coming so close back-to-back with the runoff and the saturated soil.” 

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