NEB Decision

The National Energy Board has released the report of the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. Read or download a copy Here.

First, an abreviated Chapter 1, Report of the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Volume 2

1.1 The project

“The Joint Review Panel Agreement and the Panel’s List of Issues defined the scope of the hearing. The Panel considered the project’s environmental effects, the risks of accidents, effects to local economies and traditional resource use, economic benefits, the need for the project, the safety of facilities, and marine transportation, among many other factors.

In the early stages of the public hearing, the Panel heard from many people who said that the Panel should consider the environmental impacts of bitumen extraction, including the production of greenhouse gases and related effects on climate change. The Panel considered the degree of connection between the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and upstream oil sands development, downstream air emissions from bitumen upgrading, and eventual use of petroleum products to be transported by the project. The Panel concluded that connections to oil sands development were not sufficiently direct to allow consideration of their environmental effects in its assessment of the project, other than in its consideration of cumulative effects. The Panel also concluded that downstream effects would be hypothetical and of no meaningful utility to the Panel’s process. The Panel considered emissions arising from construction activities, pipeline operations, and the operation of tankers in Canadian waters to be within the scope of its assessment.”

1.3 The Panel’s approach to sustainable development

“If approved and built, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project could operate for 50 years or more. The Panel heard from participants that it must consider the project’s implications for future generations. People expressed a passionate commitment and sense of stewardship for the environment and told the Panel how important it was to think about the long term. In making its public interest recommendation on the project, the Panel was mindful of the implications to future generations of Canadians, and of the need to integrate current environmental, social, and economic considerations.

One of the purposes of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 is to encourage federal authorities to take actions that promote sustainable development and, thereby, achieve or maintain a healthy environment and a healthy economy. Under the National Energy Board Act, the Panel must determine whether the project is in the public interest based on the evidence put before it. These two objectives are complementary and both relate to sustainable development.”

1.4 A precautionary approach

“The Panel used a careful and precautionary approach in its assessment of the project. Precautionary aspects of the Panel’s report and recommendations were guided by five principles:

• Precaution is an element of risk detection, risk reduction, and risk management.
• Precautionary mitigation should be based on scientific and technical information made available and tested through a public hearing process.
• Precaution is appropriate when potential environmental effects are difficult to predict accurately due to natural variability and incomplete knowledge of natural processes.
• Continuing community engagement and follow-up environmental monitoring can help to reduce scientific uncertainty and unnecessary precaution, over time.
• A public and transparent assessment process improves the quality of a precautionary approach.”

1.5 Improving the project design through regulatory review and environmental assessment

“New information and analysis produced during the environmental assessment also allowed Northern Gateway, the public, and the Panel to identify and evaluate new and innovative mitigation measures.

The assessment of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project involved predicting complex biophysical system behavior years into the future. An element of uncertainty was inevitable and had to be accommodated in the Panel’s conclusions and recommendations. Some precautionary conditions set out by the Panel would require ongoing monitoring and research to help reduce uncertainty. Examples include prevention and mitigation of potential undesirable project effects on old growth forests, wetlands, caribou, grizzly bear, and marine mammals.

The Panel did not need the final design details of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project to be presented during the hearing. Final engineering would commence if the project receives certificates of public convenience and necessity, and if the company decides to proceed with the project subject to all required terms and conditions. The Panel acknowledges that many final engineering details can only be determined after the Panel’s process is concluded and project construction has begun in the field.”

—–
This report defies logic. By the panel’s own words:

Section 1.1
“The Panel concluded that connections to oil sands development were not sufficiently direct to allow consideration of their environmental effects in its assessment of the project, other than in its consideration of cumulative effects.”

Then in Section 4 we read:

Section 4.1 Purpose
“The primary purpose of this Agreement is to coordinate the environmental assessment required under the Act and the NEB Act by providing for a review of the Environmental Effects likely to result from the project and the appropriate mitigation measures as part of the Board’s public hearing process for the project. Nothing in this Agreement should be construed as limiting the ability of the Panel to have regard to all considerations that appear to it to be relevant pursuant to section 52 of the NEB Act.”

The Panel’s primary purpose is to assess the “Environmental Effects likely to result from the project”.

It is hard to believe we are all reading the same statement, “connections to oil sands development were not sufficiently direct”. Where does the review panel believe the product being exported is coming from? The Oil Sands production in Northern Alberta is the direct link to the peoples of Canada and the main, if not only, reason why the Northern Gateway Pipeline has been proposed. What greater connection does the review panel need? If this is typical of the review panels considerations, than there are obvious flaws in the panels’ findings right from the start.

Could it be that the Review Panel was instructed to limit their deliberations to the “Pipeline” and to dismiss any connection to the oil sands. The USA review of the Keystone XL pipeline and their direct link to oil sands pollution has brought that pipeline into grave doubts of recieving a go ahead. The Harper government does not want the same interference with the Northern Gateway. We can read such interference from the Harper administration in the following statement, Section 1.2 “the Panel must determine whether the project is in the public interest based on the evidence put before it”. “Based on the evidence”. The problem is, what evidence is allowed?

Already it is doubtful that this report is “in the public interest based on the evidence put before it“. It is beginning to cast doubts on legitamacy from the onset. If the panel was unable to realize and weigh the evidence that the Oil Sands are the no. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, an overwhelming contributor to pollution of the Athabaska River system and a disrupter of many animal and bird species, how are they to rule “in the pulic interest”? The whole procedure smells of Conservative Government interference and influence as is very evident as one reads on.

Section 1.4 A precautionary approach
“The Panel used a careful and precautionary approach in its assessment of the project. Precautionary aspects of the Panel’s report and recommendations were guided by five principles:
• Precaution is an element of risk detection, risk reduction, and risk management.
(Why take the risk if complete information makes the risk unnecessary?)
Precautionary mitigation should be based on scientific and technical information made available and tested through a public hearing process. (If much of the scientific evidence available is not allowed within the scope of the hearings how can it be tested?)
Precaution is appropriate when potential environmental effects are difficult to predict accurately due to natural variability and incomplete knowledge of natural processes. (On which side is err most appropriate?)
Continuing community engagement and follow-up environmental monitoring can help to reduce scientific uncertainty and unnecessary precaution, over time. (In other words, continue until an environmental problem becomes hazzardous and then see if it is worth the time and money to do something about it.)
A public and transparent assessment process improves the quality of a precautionary approach.” (But where is the transparency if complete scientific assessments are not conducted first?)

“Precautionary mitigation should be based on scientific and technical information …” Everyone would agree except as we will read further the panel gives a go ahead on the pipeline without any “scientific and technical information” as regards to oil spill recovery and asks the company to conduct follow up tests. Sorry but this is not in the public interest. Because of the delicate nature of the environment and the close ties to the people, especially as First Nations have with ties to the ecology of the “Great Bear Forest” and the “Great Bear Sea”, should not Enbridge need to first demonstate that containment and clean up is readily possible? Only then can Northern Gateway be fully prepared from the onset of start up? If Containment and cleanup is not readily possible in a timely fashion then the project should not, cannot procede.

“Precaution is appropriate when potential environmental effects are difficult to predict accurately due to natural variability and incomplete knowledge of natural processes.” Yes precaution is very appropriate! Why then is the panel not taking precaution and requiring more research for knowledge of potential environmental effects before approving the project? The only rush for approval comes from the Conservative Government to have the project under way before the next election along with those who will recieve direct economic gain. To discover adverse environmental effects after the pipeline is in operation and tankers are plying the coastal waters is much too late. How then does anyone say STOP! We will have the same scenario as in the oil sands themselves, unregulated resource exploitation. The Canadian public is not that uncaring. If a project cannot be carried out with full regard for the environment and the ecology of the area then it does not procede. To do otherwise is just base greed and anti-democratic.

The panel contradicts their decision directly in this section 1.3
“In making its public interest recommendation on the project, the Panel was mindful of the implications to future generations of Canadians, and of the need to integrate current environmental, social, and economic considerations.”
1.4 A precautionary approach
“The Panel used a careful and precautionary approach in its assessment of the project. Precautionary aspects of the Panel’s report and recommendations were guided by five principles:
• Precaution is an element of risk detection, risk reduction, and risk management.
(Who takes the risks?)
Precautionary mitigation should be based on scientific and technical information made available and tested through a public hearing process. (Where is the evidence? Lack of evidence does not lessen the risk, it increases it.)
Precaution is appropriate when potential environmental effects are difficult to predict accurately due to natural variability and incomplete knowledge of natural processes. (So why did the panel then not use precaution?)
Continuing community engagement and follow-up environmental monitoring can help to reduce scientific uncertainty and unnecessary precaution, over time. (Why wait for environmental problems to create damage first? Better to be proactive instead of reactive.)
A public and transparent assessment process improves the quality of a precautionary approach.” (Not when the process is flawed from the start. Why not a complete assessment first? Is it because a complete assessment would prove the project non-viable from a social and environmental and ecological perspective?)

Section 1.5
“The Panel did not need the final design details of the Enbridge Project to be presented during the hearing. Final engineering would commence if the project receives certificates of public convenience and necessity, and if the company decides to proceed with the project subject to all required terms and conditions. The Panel acknowledges that many final engineering details can only be determined after the Panel’s process is concluded and project construction has begun in the field.”

This is a rather curious statement and leaves the project open to undesireable consequences. Was it not the panel’s main purpose to root out ‘undesireable consequences’ during it’s hearings and deliberations? Now that the panel has given ‘approval’, as long as Northern Gateway submits as ‘best as possible’ to the conditions set out in the approval, is there any possibility of preventing a less then desireable final go ahead? Very doubtful.

In all the conditions given in this report, there is no provision for a paralel independent assessment or a review of Enbridge’s findings on the assessments needed to be carried out. The time lines given do not allow for such. Is the NEB and the public to take Enbridge’s reports at face value? If an independent study were to contradict Enbridge’s findings, would work on the project be halted and an independent third party review be called? Could a third party review have any bearing on whether or not the project could then procede now that approval has been given?

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