BC Nature and Nature Canada made their final oral argument last week on June 17 before the Joint Review Panel, which is considering the future of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. These nature conservation groups are urging the Panel to conclude that the Northern Gateway application is incomplete, and therefore must be rejected.
Under the National Energy Board Act, the Panel can only make a recommendation to the federal cabinet if it concludes that the pipeline application is complete. Even if the Panel recommends against the project, cabinet can reject the Panel’s recommendation. However, if the Panel concludes that the application is incomplete, there is no recommendation to cabinet, and cabinet cannot approve the project.
BC Nature and Nature Canada have been joint intervenors in the Northern Gateway review process for two years. During that time, they have led evidence on the project’s potential impacts on the SARA listed woodland caribou and on terrestrial and marine birds, and have cross-examined Northern Gateway experts at four witness panels for a total of 25 hours.
The nature conservation groups contend that Northern Gateway’s environmental assessment is deficient and incomplete for a variety of reasons. These include its failure:
- to properly assess impacts on SARA listed woodland caribou,
- to provide a detailed baseline inventory of wildlife species impacted by the project,
- to analyze consequences of oil spills on marine bird populations, and
- to properly estimate the likelihood of an oil spill from tankers along the BC coast.
“The Exxon Valdez oil spill has shown us the catastrophic impact a spill can have on the marine bird species in the Pacific coast, some of which have yet to show signs of recovery after more than two decades,” says Rosemary Fox, BC Nature’s Conservation Chair.
“Northern Gateway’s claim that marine ecosystems recover within an average of five years after an oil spill shows that they have not learned anything from the Exxon Valdez experience.”
In its recent written final argument to the Panel, the Province of British Columbia recommends against approval of the project. This argument is based mainly on the inadequacy of information Northern Gateway has put forward regarding oil spill response, prevention, recovery, and mitigation.
“We support the BC government’s stance against this project. Northern Gateway’s spill response plans are woefully inadequate,” says Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada.
“However, Northern Gateway’s application is also deficient in many other areas, such as baseline inventories of globally and continentally significant marine bird populations and Important Bird Areas impacted by this project,” Davidson says. “In our opinion, the only reasonable conclusion that the Panel can draw is that the application is incomplete, and therefore must be rejected.”