So how did the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) considering Enbridge’s proposed pipelines and tankers project conclude that a catastrophic spill of diluted bitumen (untreated oil sands oil, diluted so that it can be transported by pipe) on BC’s North Coast would only have a short-term impact on the environment? We suggest that the Enbridge JRP report is illustrative of two concerns that we’ve raised about changes to Canada’s environmental assessment laws:
- Having environmental assessments done by the National Energy Board (NEB) undermines the potential for an unbiased and independent assessment;
- Putting in place rigid timelines discourages assessing risks up front (which is the purpose of environmental assessment) and may result in environmental assessments being done on the basis of incomplete scientific information.
In our view the process has been anything but the “science-based” process that Prime Minister Harper promised Canadians. The reality is that social licence can’t be rushed, and weak environmental laws hurt, rather than help, industry. As First Nations and others line up to challenge the Enbridge Pipeline in court, and as Enbridge continues to find itself unable to secure customers, that reality is increasingly clear.