Killer Whale Becomes Trans Mountain Achilles Heel

The Federal Court of Appeal found that the National Energy Board (NEB) made a “critical error” in failing to assess the potential impacts of shipping oil from the oil sands on killer whales.

In the 200-page Federal Court of Appeal ruling on Thursday morning, reversing the government’s approval for the Trans Mountain Expansion, resident killer whales in southern British Columbia are mentioned at least 57 times.

The court ruled that the National Energy Board review was so flawed that the federal government should not have relied on it when it gave final approval in November 2016.

It is very clear from this decision that the environmental assessment criteria and the requirements of the Species at Risk Act are not optional and must be taken seriously.

Dyna Tuytel, lawyer at Ecojustice

Close reading of the law

The project has not been assessed according to current environmental standards or in accordance with the Species at Risk Act.

The NEB acknowledged that the project had significant adverse effects on southern resident killer whales, but by defining the project too narrowly, the Board stated that it would not likely have significant adverse effects.

Dyna Tuytel, lawyer at Ecojustice

University of British Columbia Professor of Zoology and Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada Eric Taylor says he is not surprised by the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal given the threat to southern resident killer whales has lasted more than a decade.

I think the court had no choice but to do it.

Eric Taylor, Professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia and Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

In June, Fisheries and Oceans Canada committed to take measures to ensure the survival of killer whales, recognizing the threats they face. Since the NEB reviewed the project, the population of resident killer whales in southern British Columbia has declined by more than 8%.

In place of the current five vessels, 34 tankers crossed Burrard Inlet each month to transport 120,000 tonnes of bitumen.

According to the NEB report, Trans Mountain acknowledged the additional noise that the project would create, but argued that the shipping lanes “would continue to accommodate marine traffic with or without the project and the impact on southern resident killer whales”. would continue with or without the pipeline expansion. ”

This is not the first time that environmental concerns have undermined an oil development project. Among the obstacles that led the energy giant TransCanada to abandon its Energy East pipeline project, there are concerns about the impact that the Port of Cacouna would have had on the beluga population of the St. Lawrence Estuary. Lawrence.

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