B.C. rejects Northern Gateway citing spill response, environmental concerns

by Ngaio Hotte

In its final submission to the Joint Review Panel today, the Province of British Columbia issued a resounding ‘no’ to approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

CBC News reported the following comments from Terry Lake, B.C.’s Environment Minister:

“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project, including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

“Northern Gateway has said that they would provide effective spill response in all cases. However, they have presented little evidence as to how they will respond,” Lake said.

“For that reason, our government cannot support the issuance of a certificate for the pipeline as it was presented to the joint review panel.”

Click here to view the full submission from the Province of British Columbia.

The inadequacy of the existing financial structure to manage potentially serious economic impacts of a tanker spill associated with the project was highlighted in a recent UBC Fisheries Centre Research report, Potential economic impact of a tanker spill on ocean-based industries in British Columbia, by FERU members Ngaio Hotte and Dr. Rashid Sumaila. A peer-reviewed article based on the research is currently in press for the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability.

Additionally, an internal government audit recently revealed major flaws in the Canadian Coast Guard’s oil spill response capacity, including outdated equipment and disorganization.

“Although operationally ready to respond, most of the assets held by the (emergency response) program average 25 or more years in service and have either become obsolete or are coming to the end of their useful life,” said the report of the Environmental Response Capacity Definition Project.

“Maintenance is increasingly difficult as technical support and availability of parts are compromised.” (The Vancouver Sun).

Within an hour of the announcement from Lake, major media outlets including the Globe and Mail, Financial Post and Reuters had broadcast the news across the country.

The announcement came as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the project, who expected the B.C. Liberals’ recent election victory to strengthen provincial support for oil and gas projects.