BC Nature plans lawsuit challenge

Northern Gateway project approval met with resistance from organizations

The Abbotsford-Mission Nature Club supports its parent organization’s plan to file a lawsuit challenging the federal cabinet’s decision to approve the Northern Gateway project.

The 40-member club’s mandate is to “know nature and keep it worth knowing,” said Abbotsford member John Vissers.

“Clearly this application is going against everything we hold dear.”

The planned lawsuit will ask the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) to set aside the cabinet decision for several reasons, including “serious deficiencies and flaws in the Dec. 19, 2013 Joint Review Panel (JRP) report upon which the cabinet decision is based,” read a release from BC Nature.

The approval decision accepts all of the JRP’s recommendations and findings and will allow the project to proceed subject to the government of British Columbia granting the project the necessary provincial permits and other approvals.

According to BC Nature, the reasons for the cabinet decision did not address any of the deficiencies or flaws that BC Nature identified in its challenge to the JRP report filed in January, which is currently pending before the FCA.

A key argument in BC Nature’s new lawsuit will be that the JRP report was lacking in detail and analysis, thereby depriving cabinet of the factual and legal basis for making an informed decision.

The lawsuit must be filed within 15 days.

The province has said the project doesn’t yet meet Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for new heavy oil pipelines, which include world-leading marine and land-spill protections, resolution of aboriginal concerns and a fair share of benefits for B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak has indicated the province could refuse permits for the project’s construction in B.C.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized it is in the national interest to open a new pipeline route to the Pacific Ocean to carry Alberta oil sands bitumen and break the Canadian oil industry’s dependence on U.S. markets.

The decision by the Harper cabinet follows last December’s ruling by a federal review panel that the $6.8-billion project should proceed, subject to 209 conditions. That followed Enbridge’s earlier pledges to improve the project’s safety with thicker steel and other measures along the 1,177-kilometre route.

The twin pipelines would carry 525,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands west to Kitimat and send condensate to act as a thinning agent east to Alberta.