The Green Party of Canada has grave concern regarding the process that began last month with the introduction of a memorandum-of-understanding (MOU) between the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
The MOU essentially means that the NEB will, from now on, assess any aquatic environmental impacts of a pipeline proposal. It also implies two new significant changes: the NEB now has the power to assess whether a project needs a Fisheries Act permit and the power to monitor a project after the issuing of its Fisheries Act permit. According to Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands,“Stephen Harper has consistently eliminated environmental protections, checks and balances, that might delay or increase costs to pipeline projects. Under the spring 2012 omnibus budget bill, C-38, whenever a pipeline is involved, the Species at Risk Act no longer applies, nor does the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This new MOU with DFO allows the NEB complete control over the reviews and approvals previously vested in strong science-based departments.”
“The NEB is not an environmental regulatory agency and it does not have a mandate to protect species or habitats or fisheries. Environmental protection, or any other regulatory function designed to protect the public good in the face of economic expansion, needs to be arms length and independent of economic mandates, ” explained Green Party Fisheries Critic, Janice Harvey. “Without this, conflicts of interest are rife through the regulatory process. There are no checks and balances. Further, without the scientific and environmental management expertise now residing in DFO, there would not be the proper scrutiny of permits and writing of conditions, or, denial of permits. ”
The Green Party is concerned with the lack of any legislative responsibility to protect fish habitat and supports more stringent regulatory requirements for energy and pipeline development. Said Harvey : “It is stunning how Harper is gutting our federal environmental protection capacity. Canadians really have no idea how thoroughly the Harper government has gutted – destroyed – federal watchdog capacities. ”