Vancouver – The federal cabinet’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is no guarantee that the controversial project will ever be built, environmental groups said today.
“Eighteen months of regulatory hearings made one thing clear: Northern Gateway is a risky and unnecessary project that does not serve the national interest of Canada or Canadians,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Barry Robinson. “We are deeply disappointed, but you need to look no further than the spate of legal challenges filed against this project to know that Cabinet’s approval is by no means a guarantee that this project will ever be built.”
Ecojustice lawyers represented ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation during the lengthy review process. Shortly after the Joint Review Panel recommended that Cabinet approve Northern Gateway, the groups filed a lawsuit with the Federal Court of Appeal challenging the panel’s flawed final report.
“Cabinet approval is meaningless with this legal challenge and many others before the court,” said Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society. “These legal challenges, compounded by the fact that none of Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions have been met, means Enbridge would be ill-advised to break ground on this project.”
The panel report, the groups argue, cannot be used as the basis for Northern Gateway’s approval because it is based on insufficient evidence and does not satisfy environmental assessment law. The report is missing key information, including a risk assessment of geohazards along the pipeline route and how diluted bitumen behaves when spilled in a marine environment.
The groups also allege that the panel failed to meet legal requirements under sec. 79(2) of the Species at Risk Act when it decided to not consider the final recovery strategy for humpback whales and failed to identify mitigation measures to reduce impacts on endangered caribou populations as required by the Act.
“Cabinet’s decision is based on a flawed report, and that undermines the scientific rigour that is supposed to be a part of the decision-making process,” said Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “The questionable science Enbridge presented during the review hearings did little to alleviate concerns over the significant and adverse impacts this project will have on the environment.”
The Northern Gateway pipeline would lock Canada into at least another 30 years of oilsands development and undermine efforts to slow climate change. The 1,177-km pipeline would cross hundreds of fish-bearing streams, rivers and lakes; fragment endangered wildlife habitat; and clear the way for up to 220 new tankers to carry bitumen through the narrow passages of B.C.’s north coast to Asian markets each year. It will also cut through the traditional territories of more than 40 First Nations and Aboriginal groups – many of which stand in opposition to the pipeline.
“If anything, the hearings proved that Enbridge cannot be trusted to build and operate a pipeline that exposes some of our most precious watersheds and ecosystems to the risk of a catastrophic oil spill,” said Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy. “While Enbridge has overcome another hurdle with this federal approval, the company continues to face a wall of opposition in B.C. that won’t come down until Northern Gateway is dead.”
A staggering 96 per cent of written comments submitted to the review panel, including submissions by the province of British Columbia, oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.