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Northern Gateway pipeline report draws lawsuit – British Columbia – CBC News

Northern Gateway pipeline report draws lawsuit – British Columbia – CBC News.

A coalition of B.C. environmentalists is worried about the pipeline's impact on the northern environment, and says the Joint Review Panel report recommending approval for the pipeline is flawed.A coalition of B.C. environmentalists is worried about the pipeline’s impact on the northern environment, and says the Joint Review Panel report recommending approval for the pipeline is flawed. (CBC)

A coalition of environment groups has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court alleging serious flaws with the Joint Review Panel’s final report that recommended the pipeline be approved because “Canadians will be better off with this project than without it.”

The group is seeking a court order to prevent the federal cabinet from acting on the panel’s report to approve the proposed pipeline.

Ecojustice lawyers representing ForestEthics Advocacy, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation allege the Joint Review Panel’s 419-page report contains legal errors and that its approval is based on insufficient evidence.

“The JRP did not have enough evidence to support its conclusion that the Northern Gateway pipeline would not have significant adverse effects on certain aspects of the environment,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Karen Campbell, in a statement released on Friday.

“The panel made its recommendation despite known gaps in the evidence, particularly missing information about the risk of geohazards along the pipeline route and what happens to diluted bitumen when it is spilled in the marine environment.”

Serious flaws alleged

In its lawsuit, the environmental coalition says the panel concluded that diluted bitumen is unlikely to sink in an ocean environment even though it says a federal study released earlier this week suggests otherwise.

The lawyers say the review panel did not consider the federal recovery strategy for Pacific humpback whales, whose critical habitat overlaps with the proposed tanker route, or identify mitigation measures for caribou populations.

The lawsuit also alleges the panel refused to consider the environmental impacts of upstream oilsands development and permits Enbridge to assess landslide risks during instead of before construction.

Northern Gateway pipeline politicsPipeline construction is currently awaiting cabinet approval, which is expected sometime within the next six months. (CBC)

Ecojustice says the battle over Northern Gateway is about more than just one pipeline project. Campbell says it’s the epicentre of the debate over Canada’s energy future and Canada needs to get it right.

“There is simply too much at stake. Any decision about Northern Gateway must be based on the best available science. That’s why the panel’s incomplete and flawed report cannot stand as the final word on whether Northern Gateway is in the national interest,” says Campbell in the release.

A cabinet decision on whether to accept the panel’s recommendation and approve the pipeline is expected sometime in the next six months.

Under the new environmental assessment framework contained in the 2012 spring omnibus budget bill, cabinet has final decision-making power over Northern Gateway but is bound by the 209 conditions laid out in the Joint Review Panel report.

Former Tory minister on the hot seat over Enbridge lobbying gig – Inside Politics

Former Tory minister on the hot seat over Enbridge lobbying gig – Inside Politics.

Former Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl is facing questions over a possible conflict of interest after the Vancouver Observer revealed that he’s been hired by Enbridge to help them sell the provincial BC government on the merits of the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

On Monday, ForestEthics Advocacy issued a statement calling on Strahl to step down from his current gig as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the five-person board charged with keeping an eye on Canada’s top secret spy agency.

“In late 2013 it emerged that the Harper government had used CSIS and the RCMP to spy on critics of oil pipeline projects, including the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and Idle No More,” the release noted. .

“ForestEthics Advocacy and its supporters were among those Canadians targeted for surveillance. Given these events, and Strahl’s close ties to both his former colleagues in Ottawa and Canada’s spy agency, his registration to lobby for Enbridge is–at best–a conflict of interest. ”

Later that day, New Democrat natural resources critic and BC MP Nathan Cullen put out a release claiming that Strahl had been “caught” lobbying for the company.

Cullen acknowledges that, as a former minister, Strahl is currently barred from lobbying the federal government under the cooling-off provisions put in place by the Conservatives in 2006, but warns that “vague guidelines” could allow him to “skirt the rules and lobby the province. even on a federal pipeline issue.”

But under current federal ethics rules, the SIRC chairmanship is considered a part-time appointment, which exempts Strahl from many of the specific restrictions imposed by the Conflict of Interest Act.

Read the full list of do’s and don’ts for part-time public office holders here.

Unlike a full-time reporting public office holder, Strahl is no longer obliged to disclose his outside activities to the ethics commissioner, or provide the same sort of public declaration of assets, liabilities and other income that he had to file during his tenure in cabinet.

He is, however, still subject to the five-year ban on lobbying the federal government, as well as the general provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act that apply to all public office holders, which forbid him from using his current position, or information that isn’t available to the general public, to influence any decision that could further private interests.

That doesn’t mean he can’t work for Enbridge — or, indeed, lobby the province on its behalf. He just can’t exploit inside information, or his part-time gig at SIRC, while doing so.

Still, given the political sensitivities surrounding both the pipeline file and the conduct of Canada’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, it seems unlikely that the controversy over his dual roles will be put to rest simply by pointing out that he’s following the rules.

This was, after all, the government that came to power vowing to block the so-called ‘revolving door’ between politics and private sector advocacy.

Given that, it’s fair to ask whether it makes sense to treat a highly sensitive post like the SIRC chairmanship as just another part-time job.

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