Ecojustice has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to force the Joint Review Panel to go back to the drawing board and remedy flaws in its final environmental assessment report on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
In December, the Joint Review panel recommended that the pipeline be approved because “Canadians will be better off with this project than without it.” The federal Cabinet is expected to accept the panel’s recommendation and approve the pipeline, sometime in the next six months. Ecojustice argues that the panel’ conclusion contains several legal errors and is based on insufficient evidence. They say the panel:
- Concluded that diluted bitumen is unlikely to sink in an ocean environment – even though a federal study released earlier this week suggests otherwise;
- Allowed Enbridge to assess geohazard risks, like landslides, during construction instead of before;
- Did not consider the federal recovery strategy for the Pacific Humpback Whale, whose critical habitat overlaps with the proposed tanker route;
- Did not identify adequate mitigation measures for caribou populations, particularly the Little Smoky Herd of woodland caribou; and
- Refused to consider the environmental impacts of upstream oilsands development, even though it DID include the economic benefits of upstream development.
The Cabinet will not be able to accept the existing recommendation and approve the pipeline, if a court orders the Joint Panel to go back to work.
Ecojustice says, “The battle over Northern Gateway has come to stand for more than just the fate of one pipeline project. It’s become the epicentre of the debate over Canada’s energy future.”