On Friday, August 3, 2012, Environment Minister Peter Kent sent a letter to the Joint Review Panel currently studying Enbridge’s proposal to build a twinned pipeline over 1,100 kilometres between the oil sands and Kitimat, B.C. The letter, co-signed by the head of the National Energy Board, sets out new rules and timelines for the review panel. Unless there are delays created by Enbridge in replying to panel information requests, the letter establishes December 31, 2013 as the drop-dead date for the panel’s report.
“Peter Kent’s timing, the Friday of the August long weekend, to make public the new timelines for the panel’s work is further evidence of the disrespect shown to public concerns,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Clearly, Prime Minister Harper is driving forward and does not want to take the opinions of Canadians into consideration as he pushes his oil-uber-alles agenda.”
There is also a new memorandum of agreement between the Ministry of Environment and the National Energy Board stating that the Governor in Council – the avidly pro-pipeline Conservative Cabinet – will make the final decision on the NEB’s environmental assessment.
“Just as the Conservatives gutted the Fisheries Act and repealed the environmental assessment act, replacing it with a weak and watered down law, clearing the way for environmentally damaging pipelines and risky supertankers, they also used the omnibus budget bill C-38 to gut the Review Panel,” May noted. “How can the Panel conduct an objective inquiry and gather all the facts comprehensively with the reality of deadlines and with the Cabinet ready to reverse any decision running counter to the oil industry’s wishes? The imposition of this deadline and process further makes it clear that the views of the British Columbia Government will be irrelevant to the prime minister.”
Once the Cabinet approves the Northern Gateway project, the NEB has been instructed to issue the approval certificate within seven days – proof that the Harper Conservatives intend to fast-track the Northern Gateway pipeline project. This, of course, also means that mega-tankers would soon be navigating the treacherous waters near Kitimat, BC, as they ship Canada’s unrefined bitumen – and potential jobs – from the oil sands to China.
Revisions to a memorandum of agreement between the Ministry of Environment and the National Energy Board make other legal changes needed to bring the former agreement into compliance with C-38 new version of environmental assessment law. These include a section that appears to blame the environment – an ‘Act of God” – for any problems the precarious Northern Gateway pipeline might face.
“Mr. Harper’s lack of respect for our democratic process, our laws, the provincial government, First Nations and our environment grows more obvious every day. Not only is he curtailing the environmental assessment, but he plans to wash his hands of any future liabilities. The whole scenario is almost beyond belief.”