Ecojustice Blog – Climate change Posted on January 6, 2014 (updated: July 2, 2020)

Northern Gateway, now what?

Kimberly Shearon headshotKimberly ShearonStaff
Douglas Channel
Photo by Jack Borno

Welcome back and happy New Year!

The holiday break has given the Ecojustice team time to reflect on the past year and the challenges we’ll be facing in 2014. From tackling the plight of Canada’s endangered species to calling for an end to the use of toxic pesticides, there is no shortage of pressing issues to take on.

But there’s one challenge that seems to loom a little larger than the rest: The tangle of mega-pipeline projects threatening to snake their way through our backyards, across our waterways and into the heart of Canada’s most fragile ecosystems. Whether we’re talking Northern Gateway, Line 9, or Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransMountain expansion, these risky pipeline projects are a one-way ticket in the wrong direction on climate change.

Like you, we were deeply disappointed when the Joint Review Panel (JRP) tasked with assessing the project’s merits and faults recommended that the federal Cabinet approve Northern Gateway.

After all, the 18-month hearing process did little to address our concerns — shared by the 96 per cent of process participants opposed to the pipeline — about the project’s significant environmental risks.  All told, seven years after first proposing the project, Enbridge has still failed to convince academics, scientists, First Nations, the B.C. government and scores of engaged citizens that it can safely build and operate a 1,117 km pipeline.

Although the JRP’s recommendation is just that — a recommendation and not the final word — it’s hard to imagine a world where the federal Cabinet won’t give this project the green light. While the federal government has backed off its aggressive pro-Northern Gateway stance in recent months, we cannot overlook the fact that it forced sweeping and unprecedented changes to Canada’s environmental protection regime with a pair of omnibus budget bills in 2012, just as the pipeline debate kicked into high gear. The end result: Weaker standards of review and a federal Cabinet with final decision-making authority over matters of industrial development and the environment.


So where does this leave us?

While we await Cabinet’s decision on Northern Gateway, Ecojustice lawyers are sifting through the JRP’s final report and consulting with our clients at ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation about next steps.

This pipeline is not a done deal and the fight is far from over. Consider that the JRP’s recommendation, which we’ve called “a major setback for science and democracy,” seems to have hardened opposition to the project. We’ve already seen First Nations groups vow resistance and others in the environmental movement engage their networks with calls for direct action.

Meanwhile, we’re already taking the lessons learned during the Northern Gateway hearings and putting them to use as we consider our legal strategy around another major pipeline project: Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain expansion, which would twin an existing pipeline and dramatically increase tanker traffic through Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet.

Safe to say, 2014 will be a busy year with lots to talk about. Onward!

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