Weeks before the federal government’s deadline to announce a decision on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, 300 scientists are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject the findings of the panel that recommended approving the pipeline, calling them “flawed” and unscientific.
The issue isn’t the just pipeline itself, say the authors in a letter signed by researchers from a wide cast of disciplines, including Canada Research Chairs, former government scientists, and scholars from the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere.
Their critique centres on evidence being weighed by the Harper government: the findings produced by the Northern Gateway project Joint Review Panel, a board set up to assess the environmental impact of the pipeline, which, if built, would transport 500,000 barrels of crude daily from Alberta’s oilsands to the B.C. coast.o
In December, the panel recommended approving the pipeline as long as 209 conditions are met.
“There have been references to the review being science-based,” said Eric Taylor, a University of British Columbia zoology professor and letter co-author. “We thought we should test that assumption by looking at the joint review panel report almost as we would a scientific publication, to see if it was rigorous.”
They found it to be lacking.
The risk-benefit analysis of the pipeline, they say, factors in the economic benefits of global markets, but describes only local and regional environmental risks and does not take into account the global effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
The review panel also concluded that marine mammals in B.C. waters would not suffer, while recovery plans for at-risk Pacific species including whales, otters, and sea lions specifically mention vessel collisions and industrial noise as threats.
The scientists also said the panel took some of the pipeline proponents’ evidence without question, such as claims that the consequences of an oil spill would not be widespread or permanent, when the behaviour of bitumen in marine waters is uncertain. In other areas, they said, the panel failed to meet the threshold of “justification, transparency, and intelligibility” that is expected of administrative tribunals.
Northern Gateway "flawed,” 300 scientists tell Stephen Harper