NEB pipe­line plan rapped for oil in­dus­try ‘bias’

The Province - - NEWS - GOR­DON HOEKSTRA ghoek­[email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/gor­don_hoek­stra

The Na­tional En­ergy Board’s draft rec­om­men­da­tions for its re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the $9.3-bil­lion Trans Moun­tain oil pipe­line ex­pan­sion falls short of pro­tect­ing killer whales and Canada’s cli­mate goals, says the en­vi­ron­men­tal group Stand.earth.

An­nounced ear­lier this month, the Na­tional En­ergy Board would re­quire the cre­ation of a ma­rine mam­mal pro­tec­tion pro­gram for the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line in a se­ries of draft con­di­tions it laid out be­fore it con­sid­ers the project.

The fo­cus of the re­view is to ap­ply the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment Act and the Species at Risk Act to project-re­lated ma­rine ship­ping, the board says in the doc­u­ment.

The con­di­tions mit­i­gate po­ten­tial risks to the en­vi­ron­ment and pro­tect the pub­lic, it says.

Among its rec­om­men­da­tions, the board lays out mea­sures to off­set the in­creased un­der­wa­ter noise and po­ten­tial risk posed by ship strikes. The NEB is also look­ing to limit the num­ber of whale watch­ing boats and the amount of time they spend on the wa­ter.

The NEB has un­til Feb. 22 to de­liver its fi­nal re­con­sid­er­a­tion re­port to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“The board’s bias to­ward the oil in­dus­try is on full dis­play with its pro­posed new re­stric­tions on whale watch­ing and fer­ries, while at same time con­tin­u­ing to al­low a mas­sive sev­en­fold in­crease in oil tanker traf­fic in crit­i­cal orca habi­tat in the Sal­ish Sea,” said Steven Biggs, a cli­mate and en­ergy cam­paigner for Stand.earth.

The pipe­line ex­pan­sion would twin the ex­ist­ing 1,150-kilo­me­tre pipe­line, built in 1953, and nearly triple ca­pac­ity. Tanker traf­fic from the Burn­aby ter­mi­nal on the Bur­rard In­let is es­ti­mated to in­crease from 60 tankers a year to more than 400.

Biggs said the NEB rec­om­men­da­tions are also al­most silent on cli­mate change.

“It is out­ra­geous that our coun­try can per­form an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment on a project that has the car­bon foot­print of 23 coal-fired power plants — with­out com­plet­ing a full as­sess­ment of the cli­mate im­pacts,” Biggs said.

Stand.earth, for­merly called ForestEthics, which has of­fices in Van­cou­ver and San Fran­cisco, is an of­fi­cial in­ter­vener in the re­con­sid­er­a­tion process and helped or­ga­nize pipe­line protests.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment last fall di­rected the NEB to re­con­sider the project after a Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion last sum­mer quashed the ap­proval of the pipe­line.

The court ruled the NEB’s orig­i­nal re­view “un­jus­ti­fi­ably” did not in­clude tanker traf­fic and its ef­fects on killer whales and Canada had not ad­e­quately con­sulted each of six First Na­tions that chal­lenged the project’s ap­proval.

The mega-project — sup­ported by busi­ness groups in B.C., as well as some unions and First Na­tions — is meant to open new over­seas mar­kets in en­ergy-hun­gry Asia for crude from the Al­berta oil­sands.

The project has sparked years of protest, ral­lies and ar­rests.

Con­cerns of op­po­nents in­clude oil spills that could harm or­cas and salmon, and cli­mate change from in­creased car­bon emis­sion from Al­berta oil­sands de­vel­op­ment.

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