Stripped down environmental assessment for Enbridge sparks widespread outrage

OTTAWA –Retroactively applying new, tighter deadlines for environmental assessments to the Northern Gateway Project  “entirely changes the rules of the game” and lays an already heated process wide open to costly, time-consuming court cases, says MP Nathan Cullen.

“I’ve never heard of a government changing everything halfway through. They’re rigging the entire process and they’re not ashamed of it,” Cullen told reporters.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced yesterday that major resource projects will receive only one “streamlined” environmental assessment review lasting no longer than 24 months.  Currently, major resource projects can take as long six years to approve.   Flaherty confirmed the changes include the proposed Enbridge dual pipeline that would transport raw bitumen and condensate between the Alberta oilsands and Asian markets.

That could mean Enbridge hearings that began in February before a Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would finish in May of this year. That is a full year-and-a-half before hearings are scheduled to end and would silence the voices of thousands of individuals and groups who have registered to make oral statements before the panel.

Cullen pointed to the widespread outrage that has erupted in British Columbia since changes to the Enbridge environmental assessment process were announced yesterday.

“We’ve been hearing from stunned constituents all day who cannot believe the arrogance of this government and the utter disregard it has for a full examination of the huge environmental impacts and risks of the Enbridge pipeline,” Cullen said.

He noted the comments of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs earlier today, warning of “battle in the courtrooms and on the land itself” if Conservatives follow through on plans to speed up the environmental review process for Enbridge.

Cullen called the new tighter environmental assessment deadlines “a rubber stamp that is not good for business or the environment.”  He noted yesterday that one major terrestrial or marine oil spill associated with the Enbridge project would cost millions to clean up and wipe out established multi-million dollar salmon and adventure tourism economies in the Northwest for generations.


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