PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Ecojustice’s Tim Leadem questioned Enbridge at Tuesday morning’s Joint Review Panel hearings about the company’s lobbying of the federal government to relax environmental protection laws.
“Trust can only be conveyed and public interest satisfied if we know that the proponent is not actually lobbying the federal government to change its commitments,” Leadem said during his cross-examination at the Joint Review Panel hearing in Prince George. “Has Enbridge been lobbying the government with regard to the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act to allow this project to proceed?”
Enbridge lawyer Dennis Langen attempted to stop the question, saying that Enbridge experts should be trusted to meet any environmental laws: “You have to determine whether this project is in the public interest according to what is in front of you,” he told the National Energy Board panel reviewing Enbridge’s application.
“When considering the public interest, the public at large is entitled to know exactly what is being proposed here in terms of the environmental commitment … or whether the proponent is trying to change the legislative landscape that may restrict the project,” Leadem said. After 10 minutes of deliberations, the JRP panel allowed Leadem to ask the question.
Enbridge witness Paul Anderson responded that he, personally, had not been involved with any meetings or lobbying of either the provincial or federal government, but that he was aware of efforts within Enbridge to “seek clarity” on a new omnibus budget bill recently passed by the Conservative government.
In fact, an official filing with the lobby registry shows that Enbridge has been advocating for “regulatory streamlining” and “improved efficiencies ” to environmental assessments through dozens of meetings. In 2011, Enbridge met 16 times with senior officials from the Prime Minister’s office, Privy Council office, Natural Resources Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Finance Department. The company also met an additional 25 times with MPs and senators last year.
“How are we supposed to trust Enbridge’s promises for protecting the environment when the company is actively fighting to dismantle Canada’s environmental laws?” said ForestEthics senior energy campaigner Nikki Skuce. “With Harper’s support, Enbridge is trying to clear the way for Northern Gateway by removing obstacles. But no matter how successful they’ve been lobbying, they’ll never overcome the obstacle of opposition in BC.”
The company would require several federal permits and approvals – for water crossings, safe passage for fish, ocean disposal, etc. Most legislation has been changed in the past few months in favour of Northern Gateway through the two omnibus bills (Bills C38 and 45). Several provincial permits would also be required from both Alberta and British Columbia. Despite comments from the B.C. government and opposition, Enbridge responded today that they “don’t anticipate any problems getting these permits” once they received their federal certificate.
Leadem told Enbridge that he would pursue questions about government lobbying with a subsequent panel, involving Enbridge Northern Gateway president John Carruthers. The hearings continue in Prince George until late November and resume in Prince Rupert on December 10.