National Energy Board’s draft conditions for Trans Mountain Pipeline fall short on orcas, climate, public participation

When it comes to climate, Canada's National Energy Board has again shown it just doesn’t get it.

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Vancouver BC — The National Energy Board’s draft conditions and recommendations for its reconsideration of the Trans Mountain Pipeline don’t go far enough to protect the endangered Southern Resident orcas, fall short on meeting Canada’s climate goals, and set a new low for public participation standards, said international environmental organization Stand.earth. 

The National Energy Board released its draft conditions late Thursday, January 10, as part of the project's reconsideration process, which was initiated in August 2018 by the Federal Cabinet after the Federal Court of Appeals quashed the permits for the pipeline.

“The National Energy Board’s draft recommendations for the Trans Mountain Pipeline don’t go nearly far enough to protect the endangered Southern Resident orcas. These conditions show that Canada’s energy regulator doesn’t take climate change seriously, and it sets a disappointing new low for transparency and public participation,” said Sven Biggs, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Stand.earth. “The board’s bias towards 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.”

The draft recommendations suggest that the Canadian government should stop dragging its feet on the implementation of an international strategy to reduce climate emissions from the shipping industry, but remain silent on the broader climate impacts of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project.   

“When it comes to climate, the National Energy Board has again shown it just doesn’t get it. These recommendations are almost silent on one of the greatest threats facing Canada and the world. 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.

Since its embarrassment over the hearings for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, where widespread public opposition to tar sands pipelines was on full display, the National Energy Board has sought to limit opportunities for public participation in its project reviews. With yesterday’s announcement that project critics — including environmentalists, community groups and First Nations — will not be given any opportunity to make their case in person in front of the Board, the reconsideration process has failed the most basic of public participation standards by limiting any opportunities for oral cross examination of evidence presented by the company.

“The National Energy Board has hit a new low in its decision not to hold hearings where intervenors can present their arguments in person,” said Biggs. “Trudeau’s Cabinet deserves some of the blame for this poor decision, because of their arbitrarily imposed time limits on the review process. These kind of decisions all but guarantee this review will end in another legal challenge and more delays.” 

Stand.earth is an official intervenor in the reconsideration process for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. In December 2018, the group submitted nearly 70 pages of evidence to the National Energy Board, stating that the Board must assess the full climate impacts of the project and that gaps knowledge about what happens during a spill of diluted bitumen in a saltwater marine environment — and whether a spill of this heavy, sinking oil could even adequately be cleaned up — must be adequately addressed.

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Media contact: Sven Biggs, Climate Campaigner, sven@stand.earth, 778-882-8354