Earlier today, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced that the federal government is sending the National Energy Board (NEB) back to review the marine shipping impacts of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The announcement comes less than a month after the Federal Court struck down the government’s approval of the project, which would significantly increase tanker traffic in and out from the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

The government’s about-face — from arguing in court that the NEB’s original assessment should stand to ordering a new review — is a direct result of our hard-fought victory against the Trans Mountain project this past August, a victory that was only possible with the help of Ecojustice supporters.

But today’s announcement also raised some serious red flags.

As a whole, the plan is thin on details. How will the process unfold? Who will be allowed to participate? And, importantly, once the board identifies the ways marine shipping will impact endangered Southern Resident killer whales, how will these threats be mitigated?

Meanwhile, what the government did reveal is that it intends to push this hearing through in only 155 days.

As a result, we are concerned that the new review will turn into a hasty assessment that does not reflect the severity of the situation.

Southern Resident killer whales already face imminent threats to their survival and recovery. After the death of J50 earlier this month, there are just 74 whales remaining — down from 82 at the time of the original NEB assessment.

We know from the uncontroverted evidence our clients presented during the NEB’s review of the Trans Mountain project, that this pipeline expansion has a greater than 50 per cent chance of dooming these endangered orcas to extinction.

Thanks to your support, we remain committed to protecting the Southern Residents, whether through our recently-launched lawsuit, which addresses immediate threats to the population, or by continuing to fight the threat of future tanker traffic posed by the Trans Mountain project.

Thank you for helping us build the case for a better earth.

Photo of J50 and sister by NOAA Fisheries West Coast/Katy Foster, permit #21368, via Flickr. Image obtained under Creative Commons.