Environmental groups challenge federal approval of Northern Gateway in court

Image from Government of Canada.

Image from Government of Canada.

Vancouver – Federal approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline must be set aside until flaws and information gaps in the Joint Review Panel (JRP) final report are addressed, environmental groups said yesterday.

Ecojustice lawyers, representing ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, launched a new legal challenge today at the Federal Court of Appeal. The groups, participants in Northern Gateway’s 18-month review hearing process, seek a court order quashing federal approval of Northern Gateway until an adequate environmental assessment report can be produced.

“We’re challenging a flawed decision based on flawed report,” said Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “It is our position that federal government and National Energy Board approvals of Northern Gateway have no legal grounds. We are asking the Court to set aside those approvals until the flaws in the Joint Review Panel report are fixed.”

The groups are also challenging Cabinet’s failure to provide reasons for its approval order.

In January, the groups launched a lawsuit alleging that the JRP’s report erred in law or jurisdiction by (among other things):

  • failing to comply with subsection 79(2) of the Species at Risk Act;
  • considering irrelevant evidence;
  • failing to balance Northern Gateway’s economic benefits and environment impacts; and
  • determining, despite a lack of evidence, that the project is unlikely to result in significant adverse environment impacts as a result of a diluted bitumen spill.

Although the environmental assessment’s terms of reference excluded consideration of upstream (oil-sands development) or downstream (climate change) impacts associated with the project, the JRP report concluded that 35 per cent of Northern Gateway’s economic benefit will come from upstream oil-sands development.

No such consideration was given to the environmental impacts of that oil-sands development, despite a clear request to do so.

“The JRP report only tells part of the story,” Robinson said. “The Panel reached its conclusions without considering all the necessary and available science. Now we are asking the court to ensure that this flawed report, and federal approval based on this flawed report, doesn’t stand as the final word on whether Northern Gateway is in the national interest.”

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