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Canada needs a public inquiry to consider crude oil pipelines: conservation groups

Sunday, August 16, 2009

VANCOUVER – A coalition of community and conservation groups has called on Ottawa to establish a full public inquiry to look into the far-reaching effects of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal. Enbridge proposes to build twin pipelines carrying crude oil and condensate, a toxic petroleum product, across 1000 rivers and streams BC from the Alberta tar sands to the coast at Kitimat, where massive super tankers would carry oil through dangerous inside coastal waters to Asian markets.

“Canadians deserve a decision-making process for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that is independent, comprehensive, and has the freedom to decide if the proposed oil pipelines and supertankers are right for BC and Canada's Pacific North Coast,” said Josh Paterson, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law. “We are asking Ottawa to take a fresh approach to assessing the Enbridge project – a broad public inquiry that will really answer the big picture questions about the risks of these oil pipelines and tankers, and that recognizes the right of First Nations to make decisions on projects that affect their territories.”

Paterson noted that Ottawa’s current environmental assessment project will not consider the pipelines’ potential impacts on Canada’s climate change commitments, the impacts on land, air, and water of the associated expansion in tar sands production, or the full impact of lifting the 37-year-old moratorium on oil tankers in BC’s northern waters. He stated that an oil spill from tankers or the pipeline would be disastrous for fish, wildlife, and the health and economies of human communities along BC’s rivers and on the coast. Polls show that 3 out of 4 British Columbians support strengthening the ban on oil tankers through federal legislation, Paterson added. Over 2,000 citizens, community groups and First Nations have written to Ottawa to express their concerns about the process to assess the Enbridge project, and hundreds of them asked for a public inquiry.

“Northern communities have to fully understand the risks of this project, or else we’ll all be in the dark when a decision is made,” stated Dieter Wagner, coordinator of Douglas Channel Watch, a community group dedicated to protecting the inlet leading to Kitimat. “We need a full public inquiry in order to make an informed decision on whether these pipelines and tankers are right for our region.”

“This project will put our precious fishery, and all the jobs and livelihoods that depend on it, at enormous risk,” said Des Nobels, chair of the Friends of Wild Salmon, a group of northern BC residents working to protect wild salmon in the Skeena watershed and on the coast. Nobels added that in light of the reported collapse in the Fraser River sockeye salmon run, communities need a process that will assess all the risks to fish in the Fraser, the Skeena, and on the coast from the Enbridge project, and decide if oil tankers and pipelines are a risk they want to accept.

The conservation groups asked Ottawa for a public inquiry on the Enbridge pipelines project to take place alongside a government-to-government decision-making process with First Nations to determine if the pipelines should be built, and whether oil tankers should be permitted on the north coast.

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For more information contact:

Josh Paterson, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law 1-800-330-WCEL (toll-free) extension 212 or 604-601-2512

Des Nobels, Chair, Friends of Wild Salmon (250) 627-1859

Will Horter, Executive Director, Dogwood Initiative 250.418.1672

Dieter Wagner, Coordinator, Douglas Channel Watch (Kitimat) (250) 632-7293

Merran Smith, Climate Director, ForestEthics 604-331-6201

Bruce Hill, Coordinator, Headwaters Initiative 250-635-1897

Oonagh O’Connor, Energy Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society 250-973-6580

Morgen Baldwin and Julia Hill, Co-chairs, Northwest Watch 250-638-0998

Matt Horne, Director, BC Energy Solutions, Pembina Institute 604-874-8558 ext. 223

Greg Knox, Executive Director, Skeenawild Conservation Trust 250-638-0998
 

To view a letter sent by the above coalition to the Prime Minister, please click here or on the link to the file below.