Reaction to the Harper Government Northern Gateway Decision

Neither the Prime Minister nor any cabinet ministers were available for comments or questions about the expected cabinet approval, released at the last possible moment via a brief press release on June 17. “After carefully reviewing the report, the Government accepts the independent Panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway Pipelines’ proposal.” …” Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the NEB, how it will meet the 209 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments. In addition, consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits.” See the press release at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=2&nid=858469&crtr.tp1D=1 and the government’s summary statement of the 209 conditions is at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=1&nid=858489&crtr.tp1D=930 .

The province of British Columbia has conditions of its own, which Environment Minister Polak reiterated in the official B.C. reaction to the decision on June 17 at http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/06/northern-gateway-pipeline-more-work-needed-to-meet-bcs-five-conditions.html. Most notably, the First Nations of B.C. have condemned the decision: see the Coastal First Nations website at http://www.coastalfirstnations.ca/ , where Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations says: “The government’s announcement giving its approval to Enbridge is meaningless. ‘It’s an approval in name only. This project is dead. ’…… The project can’t proceed with these conditions. We’ve been clear there is no technology to clean up an oil spill and the dispersant that is used causes more damage than the oil itself.” (http://www.coastalfirstnations.ca/news-release/june-17-2014-215pm ).

Another press release from the Coastal First Nations, on June 16th, states: “With many First Nations gearing up for court battles to protect their territories from this risky proposal, representatives of Coastal First Nations, Dogwood Initiative, Unifor, West Coast Environmental Law, Douglas Channel Watch and One Cowichan promised to work together to defeat Northern Gateway, regardless of any approvals issued by the federal cabinet.”

The internet is alive with opposition campaigns: Within B.C., the Dogwood Initiative is calling for a referendum at Let B.C. Vote at http://www.letbcvote.ca/ , (includes a compilation of news reports). Stand Strong Christy, co-ordinated by ForestEthics Advocacy, at http://standstrongchristy.ca/ has an online petition urging B.C. Premier Christy Clark to hold firm to her earlier stated 5 conditions for Northern Gateway approvals in B.C.

Leadnow.ca and ForestEthics Advocacy host another petition at http://www.enbridge21.ca/ naming the Enbridge 21 (the 21 federal Conservative cabinet ministers from B.C.) and providing an online email form to contact them, and “hold them accountable” by pledging to vote for whoever opposes Enbridge in the 2015 election.

David Suzuki posted an open Letter and has an online petition to Stephen Harper , and the leaders of all federal parties at http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/no-enbridge-pipeline?utm_campaign=enbridgeEmail&utm_source=EM1&utm_medium=email&utm_content=link&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRolu6XLZKXonjHpfsX66u8kXK%2B3lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4CSsFiI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFS7jNMbZkz7gOXRE%3D .

The federal Green Party also has its own petition at http://www.greenparty.ca/media-release/2014-06-17/predictable-cabinet-decision-enbridge-project-launches-fight-stop-pipelines . Environmental Defense has an online email form to send a protest message to the political leaders at http://environmentaldefence.ca/stop-tar-sands-expansion?utm_source=Environmental+Defence+Campaign+Email+List&utm_campaign=06cf692bda-Lighten+Up+FINAL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_df56834cfa-06cf692bda-27545293.

For reaction from environmental groups, see EcoJustice at http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/press-releases/federal-approval-doesnt-guarantee-enbridge-northern-gateway-will-be-built ; Pembina Institute at http://www.pembina.org/reacts-fed-decision-gateway, Greenpeace Canada at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/harper-just-picked-a-fight-he-cant-win/blog/49666/ , Environmental Defence Canada at http://environmentaldefence.ca/articles/statement-environmental-defence%E2%80%99s-tim-gray-in-response-federal-cabinet%E2%80%99s-irresponsible-deci and Natural Resources Defence Council (U.S.) at http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/eshope/canada_approves_northern_gatew.html .

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.

National Energy Board Rejects B.C. Academics’ Participation in Transmountain Pipeline Hearings

A public letter sent to the National Post states: “This week, the National Energy Board (NEB) announced plans for its upcoming hearings on the proposal to triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain Pipeline, which transports oil from Alberta to the Port of Vancouver. The new pipeline alone is expected to lead to 50% more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year than all of British Columbia currently produces. That fact prompted 26 university professors who study climate change to apply to lend our expertise to the NEB’s assessment of whether this project is in the public interest. Every one of us was rejected, because we proposed to talk about climate change…” See the letter at: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/04/10/donner-harrison-hoberg-lets-talk-about-climate-change/; see the NEB website for the Transmountain project at: http://www.neb.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/pplctnsbfrthnb/trnsmntnxpnsn/trnsmntnxpnsn-eng.html.

Safety for Pipeline Workers Raised as Part of the Pipeline Debate

The recent oil spills in Alberta and Lac Megantic have raised the public profile of rail transport of oil and gas products in Canada.  The Fraser Institute, apparently in response to the worsening prospects of U.S. approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, released a report on Intermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil on October 15. Although the paper cites summary data from the National Energy Board about oil spills and injuries in Canada, the conclusions are based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the period 2005-2009. The paper compares injury statistics amongst workers in the pipeline, rail, and road modes of transport and finds that the rate of injury requiring hospitalization among oil pipeline workers was 30 times lower than that of rail workers, and 37 times lower than trucking workers. The paper concludes, “The evidence is clear: transporting oil by pipeline is safe and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, pipeline transportation is safer than transportation by road, rail, or barge, as measured by incidents, injuries, and fatalities- even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.”  The paper does NOT address the environmental damage caused by spills, or injury to citizens.

LINKS

Intermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil is available at the Fraser Institute at:http://www.fraserinstitute.org/uploadedFiles/fraser-ca/Content/research-news/research/publications/intermodal-safety-in-the-transport-of-oil.pdf

U.S. Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) website provides data and statistics at: http://phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline/library/data-stats

Canada’s National Energy Board Pipeline Spills information is available at:http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rsftyndthnvrnmnt/sfty/pplnncdntgrprtng/pplnncdntshydrcrbnsplls/pplnncdntshydrcrbnsplls-eng.html

Canadian Pipelines: Funding New Eastern Markets for Western Bitumen Sparks Widespread Opposition

The Energy East pipeline project proposal by TransCanada Pipeline is being promoted by Premier Redford of Alberta and New Brunswick’s David Alward. The proposal involves the inversion of 3,000 kilometres of existing pipeline from natural gas to crude oil, as well as the construction of 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec to the Irving refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. The project could carry as much as 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day. New Brunswick’s recent budget highlighted it as part of the province’s “Brighter Future”.

Echoing the recent vocabulary of Alberta Premier Redford, N.B. Premier David Alward has said “This project is potentially as important to Canada’s economic future as the railway was to its past. If we proceed, this project will strengthen our national and provincial economies and create jobs and economic growth today and for generations to come.”

Read Premier encouraged by important step in West-East pipeline (April 2) at CBC New Brunswick website at:http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/news_release.2013.04.0274.html; New Brunswick budget document, Managing Smarter for a Brighter Future (March 26, 2013) at: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/627691-budget-2013-14-final-e.html#document/p2 , and “TransCanada’s West-East oil pipeline gains momentum” in the Globe and Mail, (April 2, 2013) at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/transcanadas-west-east-oil-pipeline-gains-momentum/article10663042/.

A related protest is scheduled for Montreal on April 21: Marche pour la Terre/ Walk for the Earth is the result of a collaboration between AQLPA, the David Suzuki Foundation, Earth Day Quebec, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Equiterre, Greenpeace and Nature Quebec, along with the Idle No More movement. They will be protesting any expansion of the tar sands and the presence of pipelines in Quebec, along with many other demands for improved environmental policies and protections. See the website: in French at: http://marchepourlaterre.org/ and in English at: http://marchepourlaterre.org/en/.

Another East-West pipeline, Enbridge Line 9, has drawn criticism from environmentalists since November 2012, when Enbridge applied to the National Energy Board to reverse the flow of oil and boost the line’s capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 300,000. Line 9 is a pipeline built in the 1970’s which currently runs between Montreal and Westover, Ontario, through highly populated areas and across water sources, including the three rivers of the Greater Toronto area. Because of the danger of a disastrous oil spill, especially given Enbridge’s historic spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 and the toxicity of diluted bitumen that it could carry, the “Stop Line 9” movement has drawn large protests in communities across the proposed route.

On March 21, the following groups from Quebec and Ontario were allowed to submit their “List of Issues” to the NEB : Équiterre, Environmental Defence, Climate Justice Montreal, Sierra Club of Canada, Greenpeace Canada, and Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution Atmosphérique. The U.S. Environmental Resources Defense Council is also involved because of the potential for oil to travel from Montreal across New England, via the existing connection with the Portland-Montreal pipeline.

Read the Primer on the West-East Pipeline (April 8, 2013) by Maryam Adrangi at the Council of Canadians website at:http://canadians.org/blog/?p=20308Enbridge’s Oil Sands Pipeline Plan: All pain and no gain for Ontario at the Environmental Defence website at: http://environmentaldefence.ca/enbridgestarsandspipelineplan; Natural Resources Defense Council press release (March 26, 2013) at: http://equiterre.org/sites/fichiers/nrdcrelease_-_us_group_submittal_to_neb_line_9_reversal_project_review-nrdc-march_26-final-english.pdf, and visit the Stop Line 9 Toronto website at: http://www.stopline9-toronto.ca/ for links to major resources and other organized groups at: http://www.stopline9-toronto.ca/line9resources.php.