NEB endorses Trans Mountain Pipeline again, despite environmental effects

Feb 22 2019, 5:24 pm

Nearly half a year after the project was indefinitely stalled by the Federal Court of Appeal, the National Energy Board (NEB) has finally released a reconsideration report that approved of continuing construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The project was halted on August 30, with Federal Court of Appeal Justice Eleanor Dawson stating that the NEB’s initial assessment had been flawed on two principles: That the board’s findings regarding environmental impact were “so flawed that the Governor in Council could not reasonably rely on the Board’s report,” and that “Canada failed to fulfill the duty to consult owed to Indigenous peoples,” stated Dawson in the court documents.

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On February 22, the NEB released their Reconsideration Report after months of environmental impact assessments and Indigenous consultations.

While the new report notes that the project-related marine shipping would be likely to “cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale,” among other environmental concerns, it ultimately states that the benefits of the project outweigh the risks.

“The NEB also found that greenhouse gas emissions from project-related marine vessels would likely be significant,” the release states.

“While a credible worst-case spill from the project or a project-related marine vessel is not likely, if it were to occur the environmental effects would be significant. While these effects weighed heavily in the NEB’s consideration of project-related marine shipping, the NEB recommends that the Government of Canada find that they can be justified in the circumstances, in light of the considerable benefits of the project and measures to minimize the effects.”

The benefits, as stated in the release, include access to more markets for Canadian oil, job creation, and a boost to the Canadian economy:

“The considerable benefits of the project include increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil; jobs created across Canada; the development of capacity of local and Indigenous individuals, communities and businesses; direct spending on pipeline materials in Canada; and considerable revenues to various levels of government,” the release reads.

The NEB report would impose 156 conditions on the project if approved by the Government of Canada, along with 16 new recommendations that were created as a result of the new assessments and consultations.

The 16 recommendations include:

  • Implementing a management plan that would consider the environmental impacts on the Salish Sea
  • A public, annual report on the measures in place supporting the health of the Salish Sea
  • The development of a marine bird monitoring and protection program
  • Completing a feasibility study into the creation of a Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve
  • An offset program to offset the underwater noise and strike risk due to marine shipping
  • The Governor in Council considering measures relating to the speed, limitations, and noise reduction of vessels in the relevant bodies of water
  • A review and update on the federal marine shipping oil response requirements
  • Develop a regulatory framework for mandatory enhanced tug escorts
  • A consideration of the need for a Canada/United States Transboundary Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment
  • Seek feedback from the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee regarding marine safety
  • Continued engagement with Indigenous communities, fishing vessel operators, and recreational boaters
  • Speed up development of the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness Initiative
  • Combine current initiatives to better deliver grants and contributions to those innovating new oil recovery technologies
  • Review federal marine oil spill compensation regimes
  • Develop a formal complaint resolution program

Details on each of the 16 recommendations can be found at the National Energy Board’s website.

Seven of the pre-determined conditions had been revised following the 155-day reconsideration, with most relating to oil spill prevention and environmental protections.

“As indicated in the NEB’s report, the NEB has delivered a comprehensive, evidence-based, fair and meaningful review of Project-related marine shipping, within the timeline required by the Government of Canada,” said Robert Steedman, Chief Environment Officer of the National Energy Board, in the release.

“The NEB listened to a range of diverse views and carefully considered all of the evidence submitted, the results of which are reflected in the conclusions, conditions and recommendations presented in the report.”

The reconsideration report has been officially submitted to the Government of Canada. It counts as just one factor in considering if the project will be moving forward.

The City of Vancouver slammed the decision in a statement sent to media, saying it was disappointed about the approval, despite the potential to harm the killer whale population in the region.