Challenging Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline

Gitxaala Nation v. Canada
Photo by Nightman1965 via Shutterstock
Program area – Climate Status: Victory
Overview
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Ecojustice lawyers represented ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, in legal challenges of the federal Cabinet’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.  With our help, our clients took part in the 18-month review of the Northern Gateway proposal, after which the National Energy Board recommended that Cabinet approve the project contingent upon the company fulfilling 209 conditions.  In June, 2014 Cabinet accepted that recommendation and approved the project.

Our clients argue that the environmental assessment in this case did not consider all the necessary and available science. They allege that the review panel report erred by (among other things):

  • failing to comply with the Species at Risk Act;
  • considering irrelevant evidence;
  • failing to balance Northern Gateway’s economic benefits and environment impacts; and
  • determining, despite a lack of evidence, that the project is unlikely to result in significant adverse environment impacts as a result of a diluted bitumen spill.

In October 2015, we appeared — alongside First Nations, environmental groups, and organized labour — before the Federal Court of Appeal to make the case for why the federal government’s approval of Enbridge’s controversial pipeline should be revoked.  In June 2016, the Court issued a strong ruling that overturns the government’s approval of the project. (Gitxaala Nation v. Canada, 2016 FCA 187.)

Environmental assessments need to be carried out to the highest possible standard. This is especially the case for projects where the environmental impacts of an accident could be ecologically devastating.  Pipelines, no matter how safe, are never foolproof.  Since 2012, Alberta alone has experienced a flurry of high-profile spills and accidents from oil and gas operations and the harm to ecosystems, species, and human health cannot be easily undone. That is why we are supporting our clients to ensure that the best possible evidence is meaningfully considered before the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can proceed.

We also support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Canada and believe that it is important to be involved in cases related to projects that will accelerate demand for tar sands development.

What does this victory mean?

The decision is a cause for celebration, and effectively shuts the door on Enbridge’s pipeline.

However, upon review of the Court’s reasons for its decision, it becomes clear that this legal victory is limited, and does not address the fundamental issues on environmental assessment or consultation processes. The Court’s abrupt dismissal of the arguments based on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is especially problematic.

Perhaps the most significant result of the Enbridge victory is that it lays bare the desperate need for fundamental reform to Canada’s environmental assessment laws to support the long-term interests of all Canadians, rather than the short-term goals of extractive industries.

Key developments

Blog

FAQ: Why we’re asking the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in on the Northern Gateway decision

Environmental groups are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to weight in on a legal precedent that restricts the public’s ability to chall...

September 28, 2016

Press release

Supreme Court of Canada asked to weigh in on future of environmental assessment law

Troubling precedent in Enbridge Northern Gateway case stopped pipeline, but may shut door to legal challenges of other projects, groups say....

September 21, 2016

Blog

Ruling may not stop other pipelines; Only Trudeau can do that

In June, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the federal government’s approval of the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, wh...

August 2, 2016

Press release

Court ruling shuts door on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline

VANCOUVER – Northern Gateway opponents are celebrating a landmark court decision that strikes down the federal government’s approval of ...

June 30, 2016

Blog

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline bites the dust

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline is dead, and hopefully gone for good. Last fall, we appeared — alongside First Nations, environm...

June 30, 2016

Press release

Environmental groups go to court to quash Enbridge pipeline approval

Hearing continues today on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project VANCOUVER – Environmental groups are in court today making th...

October 5, 2015

Blog

Northern Gateway battle lands in Court

Hearing on Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project begins October 1 Opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proje...

September 30, 2015

Blog

BREAKING: We’re going to court over Northern Gateway

We promised that we’d fight back on Northern Gateway. Now it’s official. We've filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to force the J...

January 30, 2014

Press release

Environmental groups launch lawsuit over flawed Northern Gateway report

VANCOUVER — Environmental groups have launched a lawsuit to block Cabinet approval of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. The Joint Re...

January 17, 2014

Blog

Tankers? No thanks.

More than five months into technical hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the National Energy Board panel tasked with reviewi...

June 3, 2013

Press release

Reject Northern Gateway based on missing information, environmental risk and lack of benefit to Canadians, environmental groups say

Smithers, B.C. – A coalition of environmental groups says an incomplete environmental assessment, serious risks to the environment and a ...

May 31, 2013

Press release

Environmental groups to challenge Northern Gateway pipeline in review hearings

EDMONTON — The next phase of hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project starts today, giving Canadians an opportunity to raise to i...

August 31, 2012

Blog

We’re telling Enbridge to pipe down!

Today marks the next phase of an important national conversation about Canada’s future. In Edmonton, hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gat...

August 31, 2012

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