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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.

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca.

Vancouver — Environmental groups are taking the federal government to court over its continued failure to meet its legal responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act. 

Ecojustice lawyers are acting on behalf of five environmental groups in this lawsuit — the David Suzuki Foundation,Greenpeace CanadaSierra Club BC,Wilderness Committee and Wildsight.

The groups argue that a number of industrial projects, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route, are putting threatened and endangered wildlife at risk. The case will be heard by the Federal Court in Vancouver January 8 and 9.

“The federal government’s chronic delays in producing recovery strategies for Canada’s endangered wildlife are forcing species already struggling to survive to wait even longer for the protection they desperately need,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice executive director. “Worse, not having these recovery strategies in place makes it impossible for regulators to consider the full environmental impact of major projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline.”

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for four species: the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou. The habitat for all four species would be impacted by the construction and operation of the Northern Gateway pipeline, among other proposed developments.

By delaying the recovery strategies, and therefore delaying identification of the critical habitat it must then protect, the federal government is making it easier for projects like Northern Gateway pipeline to speed through regulatory review without a full understanding of their long-term impacts on these wildlife species and their habitat.

The government delayed its final recovery strategy for the Pacific Humpback Whale until this past October, more than four and a half years past its due date, and far too late to be considered by the Joint Review Panel (JRP), which recommended in December that Cabinet approve Northern Gateway.

That recovery strategy identifies toxic spills and vessel traffic as two threats to the humpbacks’ survival and recovery. The recovery strategy also shows how the whales’ critical habitat overlaps significantly with the proposed tanker route for the Northern Gateway pipeline — all pertinent information that should have been considered during the review hearings.

“This recovery strategy clearly demonstrates that Northern Gateway would have a significant impact on humpback whales and their habitat, yet by the time this science was released it was too late for it to be considered by the JRP, which calls into question the credibility of the review process,” said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club BC.

More than 160 other at-risk species — including the Southern Mountain Caribou, another species that will be impacted by Northern Gateway — still await the release of their recovery strategies.

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