VANCOUVER – Dyna Tuytel, a lawyer at Ecojustice, released the following statement in reaction to the federal government’s announcement that it has instructed the National Energy Board to assess the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion’s marine shipping impacts via an additional 155-day review.
“At every turn, the federal government has failed to take necessary and legally-mandated steps to protect the Southern Resident killer whales. Today’s announcement is a perfect illustration of the federal government’s refusal to meet the crisis at hand with the seriousness it demands.
“A 155-day review announced by the federal government today is unlikely to tell us anything new. Furthermore, today’s announcement failed to mention how the government plans to mitigate any of the project’s effects, including noise and oil spills.
“We know the Southern Residents, one of the most studied species on the earth, are in crisis. We know, from the uncontroverted evidence our clients presented during the National Energy Board’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 – and that was when there were 82 of them. Today, with the recent death of J50, there are only 74.
“The Southern Residents are facing imminent threats to their survival and recovery, including drastic declines in Chinook salmon, their primary prey. On top of this, a noisy ocean, caused by vessel traffic, interferes with their ability to hunt for the scant salmon and communicate with each other.
“If built, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would add a sevenfold increase in traffic through critical killer whale habitat to this list of existing threats, bringing the total number of tankers to 408 a year.
“The government has had years to take concrete, legal action to protect the whales. We fear that the review it announced today will do too little, in too short a time, and far too late.”
Ecojustice lawyers appeared in court on behalf of Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation and argued that the National Energy Board report on the Trans Mountain expansion, released in 2016, used an overly narrow interpretation of the law to avoid addressing the pipeline expansion’s impact on endangered Southern Resident killer whales and their critical habitat. On Aug. 30, the Federal Court unanimously ruled that that the federal government’s approval of the project violated its legal obligations to protect endangered orcas under the Species at Risk Act.
This release was updated on Sept. 21 at 1:41 p.m. An earlier version mistakenly read that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would lead to an “additional 408 outgoing tankers a year.” In fact, it would lead to a total of 408 tankers per year.
Ecojustice apologizes for the error.