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Pipeline review exemptions a 'travesty': expert

By Bryan Mc Govern

A piece of pipeline being constructed for the Northern Gateway project. 

A piece of pipeline being constructed for the Northern Gateway project. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The province has distanced itself from conducting environmental assessment inspections to upcoming pipeline projects in the wake of ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court.

And that, according to SFU health and sciences professor Tim Takaro, weakens the review process to ensure health impacts of pipelines are scrutinized.

The ruling earlier this year found the Environment Assessment Act does not provide government with the authority to dispense with an environmental assessment certificate decision — instead the decision falls to the National Energy Board.

“Imposing a post-construction requirement on this group of projects would neither be practical nor procedurally fair in these circumstances,” read a statement from the provincial government.

The review process for projects like the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Northern Gateway project aren’t specified under the new ruling, but according to the Ministry of Environment, the review process has begun for these.

“Including consultation with Aboriginal groups, ministers will make environmental assessment decisions on these projects according to the act.”

But Takaro said the ruling will lead to inadequate health assessments of pipelines.

“Basically what the province has done is the Trans Mountain project is listed under the not-yet-constructed projects, and so that’s really quite a travesty because the National Energy Board process did not adequately consider the health effects of the installation, not least of which is the climate change impacts on health but also the direct impact of health on spills.”

NEB conducts an assessment of these projects before the province steps in, but Takaro explained there are no opposite views to the pipeline projects from NEB.

“The provincial review process is supposed to enable other viewpoints and they’re just opting-out … these two review levels, the province and the feds, are crucial to getting the real picture on health impacts,” he said.

According to Takaro, the NEB — which gave conditional approval to Trans Mountain last week — did not consider oil spills in Vancouver for the Kinder Morgan project, but instead only looked at spill scenarios in the Gulf Islands.

Takaro said the “priorities” of the provincial government are getting projects approved — not health safeguards.

“They are consistent with an absolute lack of appreciation on the part of the [provincial] government of the health impacts of climate change,” he said.