The National Energy Board’s environmental review panel on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is coming to BC’s two largest cities, Vancouver and Victoria.
But if you didn’t register before October 6th, 2011, it’s too late to sign up.
“An oral statement allows you to provide the Panel with your knowledge, views or concerns on the project,” according to the Joint Review Panel. It’s supposed to be 10 minutes or less.
Given that cabinet can override the panel’s decision anyway, this whole environmental review process is mostly symbolic. Still, I would have liked to exercise this small bit of agency as a citizen and had my voice entered into the public record.
After all, here’s just a sample of the things that have happened since October 6th, 2011. Actually, all of this has happened since May:
- Three pipelines ruptured and spilled in Alberta in less than a month, including Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline, which dumped 1,450 barrels of heavy crude onto farmland near the town of Elk Point.
- Enbridge’s Line 14 burst in Wisconsin, spilling 1,200 barrels and drawing flak from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
- The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board absolutely slammed Enbridge over its handling of the 2010 spill in Michigan, where more than 20,000 barrels of heavy oil sands crude gushed into the Kalamazoo river for 17 hours before the pipeline was shut off. The NTSB compared Enbridge to the Keystone Kops.
- Former federal environment minister David Anderson announced in July that he opposes the pipeline.
- The premier of BC, Christy Clark, imposed her own conditions on the project, including “world-leading” marine and land spill response. Clark then got in a huge fight with Alberta premier Alison Redford over royalties.
- Enbridge launched multi-million dollar marketing campaigns in June and August, trying to sway public opinion on the pipeline.
- Dan Murphy, a cartoonist for the Vancouver Province, says his Enbridge spoof was yanked after the company threatened to withdraw advertising dollars from Postmedia, the Province’s parent company.
- As I reported in July, Enbridge skipped the public hearings in Shearwater, BC that were supposed to make up for testimony cancelled in April after a bogus security scare. The Heiltsuk First Nation and the RCMP maintain that JRP and Enbridge Staff were never in any danger in the first place.
- Enbridge was caught deleting 1000 square kilometres of islands from its animated depiction of the Douglas Channel, which tankers would have to navigate year-round.
- Sunday we found out that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can’t complete its assessment of the hundreds of streams and waterways the pipeline would cross — at least not before the December 2013 deadline set by the federal government — because the federal government cut DFO’s budget.
All these issues are of legitimate concern to people living in Vancouver and Victoria. All these issues came on the radar after the JRP’s cutoff date for public participation in the pipeline hearings. Any of these issues, alone or in combination, could change somebody’s mind about the project — or inspire them to deliver an oral statement to the panel.
As Rick Mercer pointed out, wanting to have an adult conversation about a watershed moment in Canadian energy policy doesn’t make you a radical. It makes you a responsible citizen.
For the Joint Review Panel not to offer that opportunity now to residents of Vancouver and Victoria further delegitimizes the entire federal environmental review process.