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To no one’s surprise, the Harper government has again approved Imperial Oil’s Kearl oil sands mine.

In May, a court ruled that the mine’s environmental assessment had not been properly completed because it gave no credible reasons why the mine’s massive greenhouse gas emissions were “insignificant”. Nevertheless, the federal government has again approved the assessment and will shortly give Imperial a Fisheries Act permit. The Harper government’s position seems to be that any project that complies with applicable laws for greenhouse gas emissions does not have a “significant adverse effect”

While no surprise, this argument misses the point. Environmental assessment is supposed to do much more than merely check for legal compliance, and legal compliance will not make Imperial’s emissions “insignificant” in climate change terms. We can expect to see the Pembina Institute take the government back to court over this in the near future.

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