Trans Mountain pipeline opponents are vowing to stand in the way of the project’s expansion.
A group of politicians, indigenous leaders and environmentalists spoke to reporters on Friday following the National Energy Board’s (NEB) green lighting of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
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“Our orcas are in crisis. It is a complete disregard for our whale populations. This should really impact the citizens who have been working to protect the orcas. All I can say is this is going to bring more people together. This will never have the indigenous support along the pipeline.”
The federal cabinet must now consider the NEB approval and decide whether to continue forward with the project. The federal government owns the existing pipeline after purchasing it from Kinder Morgan last year.
Ottawa was forced to send the project back for review after the federal court quashed the previous NEB approval of the project because indigenous communities were not adequately consulted and an increase in tanker traffic was not adequately addressed.
WATCH: Coverage from the press conference held Friday morning in Vancouver:
West Coast Environmental Law lawyer Eugene Kung says the NEB’s process was “flawed”, “biased” and was not surprised the board approved the pipeline expansion.
“It’s hard to believe that any of the conditions or recommendations will properly address the concerns,” Kung said.
“I would not be surprised if these decisions don’t end before a court after not too long.”
The NEB has also made 16 new recommendations to the federal cabinet.
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The recommendations include making changes to decrease underwater noise out of concern for the whale population, as well as recommendations on reducing emissions from vessels.
“The non-binding recommendations also include vessel slowdowns in each section of the marine shipping route, potential limits on the activities of whale watching boats and noise reduction efforts for regularly operating ferries in the area, and an accelerated schedule for implementation,” the report states.
WATCH: West Coast Environmental Law opposes NEB’s latest decision
The David Suzuki Foundation says the NEB review “ignores the true risks” associated with a projected seven fold increase in tanker traffic.
“Today’s NEB review ignores the true risks that increased tanker traffic – or worse, a catastrophic oil spill – pose to the local marine environment,” David Suzuki Foundation director-general for Western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “We’re already not doing enough to project the 74 remaining southern resident orcas. Their future is literally in question. We simply cannot justify more hazards to their environment – like the increased marine traffic, vessel noise and pollution this project would create – and I cannot see how this recommendation is in the ‘national interest.’”
WATCH: NEB reconsideration report says expansion should be approved
Research by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation shows that the Trans Mountain project would increase the risk of southern resident orca extinction by almost 25 per cent, even if executed with no oil spills or ship strikes to whales.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May says the economic benefits of the pipeline expansion were never studied by the NEB. The government has often argued the economic benefits of the pipeline expansion make the project in the public’s interest.
“If you want jobs, don’t build a pipeline. Not only is the evidence lacking, there is none,” May said. “My question to Justin Trudeau is what the calculation for wiping a species off the planet.”