Thursday, January 24, 2013

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Update

Photo: Wayne Sawchuck
We just updated our members on Nature Canada’s involvement in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings and I thought I would share the same update here on the blog.

As you will remember, the Northern Gateway Pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the BC coast. Straight through the Great Bear Rainforest, home to the endangered spirit bear. Endangered whales will share the waters with giant oil tankers. And the threat of oil spills looms over 30 Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Enbridge has been arguing that the project poses little threat to the pristine wilderness of British Columbia, (even as they've attempted to explain spills like the one in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.) Caribou will be fine, they say. Birds will be fine, they say.

We've argued, along with our joint intervener BC Nature, that their assessments are far too rosy. And, with pro bono help from lawyers at the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre,  we were able to uncover the weak science Enbridge used in their endangered woodland caribou risk assessment. For example:

•    Enbridge relied on just a single source – an unpublished, non-peer-reviewed slide show on Yukon Caribou – to make its risk assessment, an error that some observers say “might just be enough to sink the project.” (Globe and Mail, Nov. 11, 2012)
•    Enbridge used data on caribou mortality in winter for their research, but failed to consider summer mortality, which recent literature clearly shows is the more significant measure.
•    We fought – successfully – to have new caribou research entered into evidence that “raises urgent questions about the fate of caribou, wolves and the Gateway Pipeline” (Globe and Mail, Nov. 18, 2012).

Next up: on February 4, we will return to Prince Rupert to question Enbridge about the risk of oil spills to BC’s marine life. (If you want to help with our efforts at the hearings, your gift would be greatly appreciated).

It’s simple. When you move oil, you spill oil. It’s not a question of if a spill will occur – it’s a question of when. This is still a fight we need to win. 

Want to read past posts on Northern Gateway? Here you go.