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Environmental groups demand public inquiry into Enbridge Pipeline

West coast environmental groups demanded today that the federal government create a public inquiry to look into crude oil pipelines in northern BC.

“Canadians deserve a decision-making process for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that is independent, comprehensive, and has the freedom to decide if the proposed oil pipelines and supertankers are right for BC and Canada's Pacific North Coast,” said Josh Paterson, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law today in a press release.

The letter sent to the government was signed by ten different environmental groups including West Coast Environmental Law, ForestEthics, the Pembina Institute, Living Oceans Society and others. It stated that the proposed model for environmental review of the pipeline is not adequate.

The current proposed process is a model called a Joint Review Panel, similar to the panel reviewing the potential impacts of the Mackenzie Gas Project.

The groups, however, argue that the scope and scale of a JRP is not nearly enough to take into consideration the massive impacts that such a project could have.

The Agreement for an Environmental Impact Review of the Mackenzie Gas Project, for example, which outlines the scope of the JRP associated that the project in Mackenzie defines strict, cites very specific areas that should be reviewed by the panel--such as the specific kilometers that the pipes would run over, or specific well placements.

It does not, however, have the capacity for the broad assessment the groups would like to see.

“The current environmental assessment process does not have the capacity to look at, for example, what the connection will be between this project and Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Paterson told the Tyee.

“It doesn’t have the scope to look at the effects of associated tar-sands production that will go along with creating new pipeline infrastructure. The legislation that governs environmental assessment at the federal level doesn’t allow the capacity to look at all these issues,” he said.

In their letter today, the groups called for a broader public consultation:

An informed decision on this project can only be taken after a full public inquiry that considers the critical, strategic-level policy questions raised by this proposal. Some of these broader policy questions are:

-the development of the tar sands and their role in Canada’s energy future; -the impact of this pipeline project and the tar sands on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, water, and land; -the significant risks posed by lifting the moratorium on oil tanker traffic in Canada’s dangerous Pacific North Coast waters; and, -the cumulative impact of pipeline and tanker traffic through the future further development that they will potentially enable.

A similar enquiry was mandated by the government when a nearly identical pipeline through British Columbia to Kitimat was considered in 1978. The West Coast Oil Ports Inquiry was charged with investigating all possible effects the project could have, and eventually led to the demise of the project.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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