If Canada has not yet been formally inducted into the elite roster of global petro-states, where a country’s democratic rights and economy are run by oil interests, then Thursday’s National Energy Board decision assures it honorary membership
The federal cabinet now has 180 days to make a final decision on bringing tar sands oil to the Great Bear Rainforest. As one journalist recently summed up this phase of the process, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper now has 180 days to choose which rubber stamp to use.“
Like a group of hyenas shredding a carcass, Enbridge and the Federal government will be working tirelessly to twist the 209 conditions attached to the JRP report into a confusion of meaningless, discretionary and unenforceable measures until the phalanx of big oil lobbyists is placated.
If this sounds overly cynical, I urge you to scan the 400 plus page report: http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/dcmnt/rcmndtnsrprt/rcmndtnsrprt-eng.html. In the meantime here are a few nuggets I have come across:
On page 18, the panel states that in the event “…of a large oil spill, we found that there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups. We found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread.”
An oil spill clean up is considered ‘successful’ when 10-15% of the spilled oil is recovered. This means in a best-case spill scenario approximately 90% of Enbridge’s tar-like oil will be left for nature to clean up.
The proposed tanker route is arguably the most important critical habitat for humpback whales on the entire B.C. coast. On page 242 this is how the NEB proposes mitigation for whale disturbance: “Feeding humpback whales occur in other locations along the coast of BC and feeding habitat is available to individuals potentially displaced from the project area.”
Nice one, the whales can just move north where there are multiple LNG tanker projects proposed around the Prince Rupert area or perhaps they could move south to see how they fit into Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and tanker expansion plans.
On page 17 of the report, the JRP denies a significant connection between the proposed project and any upstream or downstream impacts. This means that the effects associated with expansion of the tar sands or the refineries in Asia that would be a significant contributor to runaway climate change were not considered in their analysis:
“Many people said the project would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and social effects from oil sands development. We did not consider that there was a sufficiently direct connection between the project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development or other oil production activities to warrant consideration of the effects of these activities.”
Yet the JRP gave plenty of space to the economic benefits that expansion of the Alberta tar sands would generate. It is clear that the NEB is a facilitator of oil projects and not a regulator as it was once meant to be.
Is there good news? Yes, definitely. The painful and insulting charade of the JRP public process is finally over. We also no longer have to delude ourselves into hoping that the panel would reach a democratic decision, one that would respect aboriginal rights, public interest and the environment.
I imagine when people get a chance to digest the content of the JRP report, they will get angry, really angry. Over 10,000 people contributed letters of comment or oral statements to the JRP process, an overwhelming majority (over 96%) of whom spoke out against the proposed project. According to the JRP report, their voices were heard, but not significantly incorporated into the final analysis. On page 14 of the report, the JRP states:
“We considered all the information and views filed on the public record. Our process was designed to receive all perspectives. Our recommendations are based on technical and scientific analysis rather than the on number of participants sharing common views either for or against the project.”
Yet they go on to declare that this project is “…in the Canadian public interest.”
Page 21 is a dandy where the panel states: “We were not persuaded that construction and routine operations of the project would have a negative effect on the social fabric of communities in the project area. We also were not persuaded that the project would adversely affect the health and wellbeing of people and communities along the route or in coastal areas.”
This one will haunt them. The panel is basically dismissing an unprecedented number of submissions, including 1,179 oral statements, 175,669, pages of evidence and 884 hours of hearings. Perhaps they should have told Canadians a few years ago that public participation would ultimately be ignored.
It is clear that this facade of a process was scripted many years ago by oil interests, but if this is Enbridge’s best foot forward we should be heartened. The gaps in this report are big enough to drive an oil tanker through, and what is going to follow will make the 40 year (and counting) Mackenzie valley pipeline process seem streamlined. Environmental and constitutional legal battles, pending elections and an increasingly concerned and committed citizenry will ensure that this pipeline is never built.
As we lament for a Canada that we once knew, let’s take heart in knowing that all cards are now on the table. No more waiting for government or anyone else to protect our coast and chart a sustainable future for us. That responsibility is clearly on our shoulders and we will be doubling our efforts to realize this dream for our coast.
As Haisla spokesperson Gerald Amos stated in the media yesterday when asked if he would consider civil disobedience in the future. “I don’t consider it being disobedient when I am obeying my elders and traditional laws while protecting my home.”
I like that and as this last roller coaster of a year comes to a close, I also pledge to be a little bit more obedient in the times ahead.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.