Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Panel Should Have Considered Whales When It Reviewed Pipeline Proposal: Lawyer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Panel Should Have Considered Whales When It Reviewed Pipeline Proposal: Lawyer

Article excerpt

Pipeline panel didn't consider whales: lawyer

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VANCOUVER - A federal panel tasked with reviewing the Northern Gateway pipeline project failed to take into account the serious threat oil spills and increased tanker traffic pose to humpback whales, says an environmental lawyer.

ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and B.C. Nature are part of a Federal Court of Appeal challenge arguing the government erred in granting approval to Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) for the controversial, $7-billion megaproject.

Barry Robinson, a lawyer for three of the four environmental groups, told the court in Vancouver on Monday that the review panel's failure to consider Canada's official recovery strategy for humpback whales negates the federal government's approval.

"The final humpback whale recovery strategy was added to the Species At Risk public registry on Oct. 21, 2013," said Robinson, which was two months before the panel issued its 209 recommendations.

As of that date, the Joint Review Panel -- the independent body mandated by the National Energy Board to assess the environmental effects of the project -- was required to take that document into consideration, he added.

"They seem not to have understood that obligation," Robinson said, referring to panel members.

The federal government issued its approval in June 2014.

The proposed, 1,200-kilometre twin pipeline would carry bitumen between the Alberta oilsands to B.C.'s coast for export to foreign markets. Enbridge estimates the project would boost Canada's gross domestic product by $300 billion over 30 years.

The court is considering a total of 18 legal challenges from First Nations, environmental organizations and a labour union. The hearing is expected to conclude on Thursday.

Raincoast's Misty MacDuffee said a bump in tanker traffic increases the likelihood of fatal collisions with whales and underwater noise seriously interferes with feeding and communication.

"The waters between Kitimat and Hecate Strait, where Enbridge wants to put its tankers, are critical feeding grounds," said MacDuffee, speaking outside the court on Monday. …

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