Environment
Darryl Dyck/AP

Hundreds of scientists to Canada PM: Pipeline report 'deeply flawed'

Climate change wasn't mentioned as a factor in the federal review of the Northern Gateway pipeline

Hundreds of scientists have signed a letter sent to Canada’s prime minister blasting a federal review recommending the approval of the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline as biased, Canadian media reported.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to decide whether to approve the $7 billion pipeline, which will extend from Alberta to British Columbia, this month.

“We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this report,” the letter said, adding that the study was based on a “flawed analysis of the risks and benefits to [British Columbia’s] environment and society.”

Enbridge Energy’s 730-mile pipeline would pump 525,000 barrels of Alberta tar sands oil every day on to 220 tankers annually in Kitimat on British Columbia’s northwest coast. 

Many indigenous groups in Canada oppose the pipeline, as well as environmentalists concerned about the transport of tar sands oil to the pristine wilderness of British Columbia's coast.

They said the joint review panel (JRP) report had so many errors and omissions that it can’t be used to gauge whether or not the pipeline is in the public’s best interest, CBC Canada reported Tuesday.

In an email to the Vancouver Observer, Janet Holder, Northern Gateway project leader, said the panel's report is “based on sound science and fact, and included input from thousands of Canadians with a wide range of viewpoints and expertise.”

“By actively seeking to undermine the work of these experts outside the JRP process, the signatories of this letter are denying the experts an opportunity to defend their work,” Holder said.

The review process was one of the most comprehensive in Canadian history, she said, with 80 expert witnesses testifying under oath. Holder did not address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions

The letter said the report failed to consider increased greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development and their burning in Asia, unjustifiably dismissed risks posed by spills at sea and contradicted the government’s own scientific evidence on the dangers to whales and other marine species.

“[The letter is] signed by a who’s who of Canada’s scientific establishment, Canada Research chairs, PhD candidates, as well as researchers as far away as Oxford, Stanford and Harvard,” according to the Vancouver Observer.

Environmentalists criticized a decision last month by the Harper government to strip whales that live in waters off of Kitimat of their protections under Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. Endangered Species Act — allowing the project to move forward. 

Harper’s lieutenant, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, said in an email to the Vancouver Observer Tuesday, “The federal government is reviewing the independent regulator’s recommendation. Our government has been clear that proposals cannot proceed unless they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.”

But climate change was not even mentioned as a factor in the review, Kai Chan, associate professor with the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said according to the Vancouver Observer.

“From our perspective, climate change seems to be the most important environmental threat facing the planet. And not talking about climate change, contradicts our government’s promises to do something about emissions through various international processes — it’s unjustifiable,” Chen said.

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