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Feds spending $120M to 'win approval' for Gateway pipeline: Greens

The federal Conservative government is spending $120 million to study potential oil spills on B.C.’s west coast, a clear signal it expects Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project to be approved, Green Party representatives claimed Wednesday.

"Tens of millions of dollars are being spent as though the [Gateway review] process was a mere formality," federal Green Party leader and MP Elizabeth May said in a statement.

At issue is a federal project, coordinated among several departments, to study the chemical and physical make-up of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands, and how that bitumen might impact B.C.’s central coast in the event of an oil spill.

"This initiative will help to improve our understanding of non-conventional oil and model its behaviour," read federal government documents released Wednesday by the Green Party.

The problem, as the Greens see it, is that Northern Gateway is still being reviewed by the National Energy Board, and so spending public money to study oil spills is tantamount to prejudging the Board’s outcome.

"It is shocking to find that Ottawa is using our tax dollars to help Enbridge win approval for a project most British Columbians oppose," argued interim Green Party of B.C. leader Adam Olsen.

Environment Canada, however, says coastal safety is the government’s main concern. Oil-spill research, department spokesman Mark Johnson has noted, will "fortify Canada’s marine prevention, preparedness and response capabilities."

The National Energy Board is expected to issue recommendations on whether to approve Northern Gateway by the end of the year.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change for The Tyee.

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