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 late last week, 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 has 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 Liberal 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,” said Biggs.
Stand.earth, formerly called ForestEthics, which has offices in Vancouver and San Francisco, is an official intervener in the reconsideration process and had 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 to quash 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, including environmental and community groups, and First Nations such as the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish, include oil spills that could harm orcas and salmon, and climate change from increased carbon emission from Alberta oilsands development.
The Canadian government owns the Trans Mountain pipeline that delivers oil from Alberta to Burnaby, and its proposed expansion, following a decision last spring to buy the assets for $4.5 billion from Houston-based Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan balked at continuing to build the project because of opposition in B.C., particularly from the NDP government that came to power in 2017.
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