Pipeline review draws criticism
By Judith Lavoie
Federal terms of reference for assessing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline brought instant condemnation from environmental groups yesterday.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Energy Board announced they will hold open forums on the pipeline, which would run from the Alberta oilsands to a port at Kitimat.
"The public and aboriginal groups are encouraged to bring their views on the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project forward to the Joint Review
Panel once the panel is established," said a news release.
The panel will consider whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and if it is in the public interest.
Once hearings are finished, the panel will submit recommendations to the federal government.
But environmental and aboriginal groups say the scope is too narrow and the panel will not have enough clout.
"The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project would result in a 30 per cent increase in average daily oilsands output, with major environmental consequences, but the environmental assessment of the project will ignore these impacts," said Karen Campbell, staff lawyer with the Pembina Institute.
Eric Swanson of the Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative said the process will not ask British Columbians if they want to accept the risk of an Exxon Valdez-type spill on the province's north coast.
"If it did, Canadian taxpayers could save a lot of money because 72 per cent of British Columbians are opposed to oil tanker traffic on our north coast," Swanson said.
Both the Pembina and Dogwood organizations promote sustainable development.
Opposition to the project will increase because of the weak terms of reference, said Jessica Clogg, West Coast Environmental Law executive director.
"Given the potentially devastating risks, citizens can be rightfully concerned about a federal environmental assessment process that has a track record of giving the thumbs up to over 99 per cent of the projects," she said.
If approved, the 1,170-kilometre pipeline would run between Bruderheim, Alta., and Kitimat, where crude oil would be loaded onto supertankers. A second line would carry condensate from Kitimat to Bruderheim.
About 670 kilometres of the pipeline would be in B.C.