After 18 gruelling months, joint review hearings on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are finally coming to an end. Ecojustice’s Barry Robinson delivered a final argument against the project late Tuesday afternoon in Terrace, B.C.
It’s been a long journey, one with many twists and turns, but through it all Ecojustice lawyers have been committed to ensuring that environmental interests are well-represented and duly considered during the review process.
When the project was first announced in 2006, we and many others in the environmental community sprang into action. We knew that this pipeline was a bad idea. The risks a 1,177-kilometre pipeline would pose to fragile ecosystems and endangered wildlife are simply too great to ignore — to say nothing of the fact that approving another mega-pipeline all but guarantees another 30 years of dependency on a fossil fuel economy.
Since then, acting on behalf of our long-time clients, ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation, we’ve taken a stand against Northern Gateway. Throughout the review process we’ve outlined the weaknesses in Enbridge’s proposal, challenging the company’s claims that it can manage the significant and adverse effects the pipeline will have on the environment.
And while we always knew the debate over Northern Gateway was going to get heated, little did we know that it would become a touchstone for concerned Canadians from all walks of life, sparking a larger conversation about our right to speak out against big projects that will affect our lives and shape the future of this country.
Along the way, we’ve been lauded for taking a tough stand. We’ve also been unfairly criticized by the federal government for doing our part to ensure that that the interests of all Canadians are considered before any decisions about the pipeline are made.
But as is always the case at Ecojustice, it comes down to facts and science. In every instance, the best information we have suggests that this project should not, under any circumstance, be approved.
Basic questions remain unanswered. For instance, we still don’t know whether diluted bitumen will sink or float in the event of an oil spill. Enbridge has also been unable to prove that it has made any substantial improvements to its emergency procedures since its disastrous Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan three years ago.
In fact, the National Energy Board issued an order to Enbridge in March after finding that its existing pipelines lacked emergency shut-down buttons and backup power to shut down systems at many of its pump stations in case of emergency.
The Province of British Columbia, taking a cue from public opinion, has already come out against the project. A staggering 96 per cent of written comments submitted to the joint review panel over the past two years — including a 150+ page submission filed by Ecojustice — oppose the proposed Northern Gateway.
Now, as final arguments are made and the hearings come to a close, the fate of the pipeline rests with the review panel and ultimately — thanks to a series of regressive legislative changes — the federal government.
It all comes down to one simple question: Can we really trust Enbridge to build and operate another mega-pipeline in the public interest? We don’t think so.