Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Canadian Prime Minister Dismisses Northern Gateway Pipeline's Environmental Review

The enviromental review of the Northern Gateway pipeline began on January 10, but on the eve of the hearings Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were dismissing the process. Rather than remaining impartial, the Prime Minister and his government are using their influence to undermine the entire environmental review process.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would carry Alberta’s tar sands nearly 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) through pristine wilderness to B.C.'s northern coast. Over 220 supertankers would then sail through B.C.’s North Coast waterways, something that was previously prohibited due to concerns that an oil spill would ruin precious coastal natural resources.

Those who are concerned about the environmental impact of the pipeline are being discredited by the Conservatives. Pro-pipeline propaganda dismisses those with environmental concerns as radicals funded by by foreign special interest groups.

The safety of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project has been challenged by a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pembina Institute and Living Oceans Society. Nathan Lemphers, senior policy analyst, the Pembina Institute said, “This report shows why the Northern Gateway pipeline is not worth the risk for the communities, rivers and Pacific coastline of British Columbia.”

The report titled Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impacts to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and Pacific Coastline from Tar Sands Oil Transport, documents the risks of transporting tar sands oil to communities along the pipeline and tanker paths, to salmon-bearing rivers and to coastal ecosystems. The report warns that the combination of corrosive oil, the dangerous pathway and treacherous seas make Northern Gateway project an unnecessary threat.

According to Katie Terhune, Energy Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society. “History has shown that oil tankers come with oil spills. It is not a question of if, but when, a spill will happen.”

Natural Resources Defense Council International Program director, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz said “We have cleaner solutions that will not devastate British Columbia’s great angling rivers, the globally important Great Bear Rainforest and our climate.”

Native groups are testifying against the project in the hearing's early stages and then other opponents of the pipeline will make their voices heard in the third week of March to coincide with the anniversary of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska.

In the Prime Minister's eyes the outcome of the project is already a foregone conclusion. However, opponents intend to use the hearings as a platform from which to mobilize public opinion.

Canadians may be stuck with the Federal Conservatives for another four years but B.C. Premiere Christy Clark's government is scheduled to face an election in 2013. Almost 100,000 letters opposing the pipeline were already sent to the government of B.C. in December.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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