Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Resource Minister Joe Oliver could learn a lesson or two from the U.S. administration’s rejection of the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline.
Today, President Barack Obama denied the project, saying that a proper environmental review could not be conducted in time to meet a 60-day deadline set by Congress to decide whether to proceed with the controversial pipeline.
“As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” President Obama said in a statement. “As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied.”
This development stands in stark contrast to recent comments from the Canadian government suggesting that regulatory processes, like the one used to assess the impacts on big projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, should be streamlined.
“President Obama’s decision is a testament to the need to carefully consider the impacts of these pipeline projects, which would span thousands of kilometres and have serious environmental consequences, before they are allowed to go ahead,” said Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyer.
“Canada should take notice, given that Prime Minister Harper and Minister Oliver seem to be in a rush to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, despite clear evidence that it is unsafe, unsustainable and unnecessary.”
Before the Northern Gateway hearings started last week, the Prime Minister told reporters that: “Growing concern has been expressed to me about the use of foreign money to really overload the public consultation phase of regulatory hearings, just for the purpose of slowing down the process.”
An open letter penned by Minister Oliver last week targeted environmental groups, accusing them of trying to hurt the Canadian economy and using the public hearings process to delay “good projects.”
TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone pipeline, has been invited to reapply for a permit once it comes up with a new route that avoids an ecologically sensitive area of Nebraska.
Meanwhile, the Northern Gateway public hearings continued today in Prince George, B.C.