Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on February 22, 2019 (updated: February 22, 2019)

Why Cabinet can’t keep repeating its Trans Mountain mistakes

Devon PageLawyer
Newborn orca L-124
Photo via Center for Whale Research, whaleresearch.com

The National Energy Board (NEB) says Cabinet should approve the Trans Mountain pipeline project, but Ecojustice — and the law — say the federal government can’t approve this project without mitigating the risks to endangered orcas.

Canada’s energy regulator is recommending Cabinet approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion for the second time.

Earlier today, Feb. 22, 2019, the NEB released its recommendation to the federal government.

The board found the Trans Mountain project would have “significant adverse environmental effects” on Southern Resident killer whales and on “Indigenous cultural use” associated with the endangered orcas. It also found that the greenhouse gas emissions from project-related marine shipping would be “significant.” Despite these threats, the board opted to recommend the project without a credible plan to mitigate its impacts.

Now, Cabinet has 90 days to decide whether or not to give the project the green light once more. It can also choose to extend this timeline, and is already hinting that it might.

A bad case of pipeline déjà vu

It feels like pipeline déjà vu — but this is one nightmare we can’t afford to keep repeating.

The Trans Mountain project poses an unacceptable threat to endangered Southern Resident killer whales. If built, it would lead to a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through critical Southern Resident habitat — from about four tankers per month to 34, resulting in a total of 408 tankers a year.

This would put a huge strain on the Southern Resident killer whale population, which needs a quiet ocean to hunt and communicate. The Southern Residents already face imminent threats to their survival. They simply cannot handle an increase in tanker traffic associated with the Trans Mountain expansion and the additional noise, risk of oil spills, and threat of vessel strikes that would come with it.

Additionally, the Trans Mountain project would add to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the science says we have less than 12 years to halve global emissions to keep warming in check. If we fail to do so, the world will face more extreme temperatures, melting sea ice and rising sea levels, and threats to food security, water supplies and safety. Vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest.

When the NEB first recommended Cabinet approve the project back in 2016, it deliberately left the project’s marine shipping impacts out of its environmental assessment of the project.

With the help of Ecojustice’s dedicated community of supporters, we went to court on behalf of Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Living Oceans Society to challenge the fact that Cabinet used this flawed review as the basis for approving the project.

Thanks to Ecojustice’s lawsuit, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that Cabinet had acted illegally. The federal government responded by sending the NEB back to reconsider these impacts.

Now, the NEB appears to be making the same mistakes all over again. The board is recommending that Cabinet approve the project for a second time, but it still hasn’t met its legal responsibility to mitigate the risks this project would pose to the Southern Residents.

We’ve been down this road before, and we know what will happen if Cabinet decides to unlawfully approve this project: Not only will it set the stage for another lengthy court battle, but, more importantly, it will prolong the threat this project poses to the Southern Resident killer whales, to communities that stand to be affected by this risky project, and to our collective climate future.

Calling on Cabinet to say no to Trans Mountain once and for all

That’s why we’re calling on Cabinet to reject the NEB’s recommendation and say no to this project once and for all.

After the NEB’s 2016 recommendation, your support helped Ecojustice spring to action and mount a legal case that struck down Cabinet’s approval of the project. Thank you for making that critical work possible.

Now, Ecojustice needs your help again.  In the coming months, Cabinet will decide whether or not to take the NEB’s advice and approve the project. We want to make sure it makes the right decision — and if it doesn’t, we need to be ready to do what we do best: Use the power of the law to respond.

Will you make a donation to support our fight to shut the door on Trans Mountain for good?

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Photo of newborn orca L-124, or “Lucky,” via Center for Whale Research

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