News updates for June 2016: Canada

 REVIEW OF THE NEB AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT:   On June 20, the Federal government announced  a “Comprehensive Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes” , involving six ministries: Fisheries and Oceans; Environment and Climate Change; Transport;  Science and Innovation; Indigenous and Northern Affairs; and Natural Resources. A dedicated website houses consultation documents and allows for public input,  since “Consultation will be at the core of this review”.  An expert panel will review the National Energy Board and submit its findings in early 2017; similarly, another panel will review the Environmental Assessment Agency .  The Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act will be reviewed by parliamentary committees starting in the Fall 2016, with a report due January 2017.   See the CBC  or the National Observer    for summaries.

CANADA AND G7 NATIONS PLEDGE TO END FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES: At the G7 Summit in Japan at the end of May, member nations, including Canada, set  a deadline to end government support for coal, and  oil and gas by 2025. The text of the Final Leaders’ Declaration  doesn’t define “subsidy” and  leaves wiggle room by indicating “inefficient” subsidies (see page 7).  And an article in The Guardian singles out Britain for new North Sea tax breaks, Japan for coal expansion,  and Canada for extending subsidies for natural gas production in the February 2016 budget.

Pipeline News: Kitimat, First Nations Reject Northern Gateway; the Government Downgrades Protection for Humpback Whales

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline has encountered new road blocks as communities voice renewed opposition to the project. In Kitimat, residents voted against the pipeline by 60% in a non-binding plebiscite on April 19th. Kitimat might stand to gain the most if the project proceeds, with a promise from Enbridge to bring 180 permanent jobs to the community in addition to indirect opportunities for local contractors and suppliers. The day before the vote, four First Nations from the Yinka Dene, just west of Kitimat, expressed their official opposition to Northern Gateway in a meeting with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Yinka Dene have already gathered 160 B.C. First Nations behind a petition against the project. Other communities that have previously stated their opposition include Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Smithers.

See “Kitimat Residents Vote ‘No’ in Pipeline Plebiscite” from The Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/kitimat-residents-vote-in-northern-gateway-oil-pipeline-plebiscite/article17949815/, “Does Kitimat’s Vote Matter?” In The Tyee at: http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/04/12/Kitimat-Northern-Gateway-Vote/, and “Four Dene clans officially reject Northern Gateway pipeline” from The Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/four-dene-clans-officially-reject-northern-gateway-pipeline/article17948468/.

See https://workandclimatechangereport.org/2014/01/28/northern-gateway-headed-to-court-as-neb-approval-provokes-criticism-of-review-process/ for background on the current lawsuits against the Northern Gateway project by First Nations and environmental groups.

Meanwhile, on April 22nd, Environment Canada has recommended that the humpback whale be reclassified, from “threatened” to “species of special concern” under the Species At Risk Act. This would remove legal protection for humpback habitat (which happens to include the British Columbia coast where oil tanker traffic would increase if Northern Gateway is approved, and is part of the basis of a lawsuit launched by EcoJustice and others). See the CBC report at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/humpback-whale-losing-threatened-status-amid-northern-gateway-concerns-1.2617633.