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Pipelines carrying steam to wellheads and heavy oil back to the processing plant line the roads and boreal forest about 75 miles south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. (Photo: Reuters)

100+ Groups to Justin Trudeau: Pull the Plug on 'Broken' Pipeline Process

'A failure to assess greenhouse gas emissions for tar sands pipelines would bring great doubts on Trudeau’s commitment to fight climate change.'

Deirdre Fulton

Decrying Canada's "costly, broken" pipeline approval system, more than 100 groups on Thursday urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately halt the review process—including for two especially controversial projects—due to its failure to properly engage First Nations communities or assess potential greenhouse gas emissions.

Doing so, the groups said in a joint letter (pdf), would give Trudeau—who continues to give lip service to fighting climate change—a chance to keep one of many promises he made on the campaign trail. And it would speak volumes about his ambitions going into this month's United Nations COP21 talks.

"Stopping the pipeline reviews is one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s promises that he can fulfill alone, without legal input, and would represent a clear act of climate leadership one month before Paris," said (pdf) Keith Stewart of Greenpeace. "A failure to assess greenhouse gas emissions for tar sands pipelines would bring great doubts on Trudeau’s commitment to fight climate change."

"We represent a broad cross-section of interests, and many of us are, or were, participants in the current National Energy Board (NEB) reviews of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and TransCanada Energy East pipelines and tankers projects," reads the letter. "This gives us first-hand experience of the many ways these processes are failing to serve the Canadian public interest."

The business, environmental, community, and municipal signatories included a list of "fatal flaws" in the current NEB review process, including:

  • Failure to properly engage and consult with First Nations governments affected by the pipeline proposals;
  • Failure to include an assessment of upstream and downstream impacts of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Exclusion of affected members of the public from the review process; and
  • Perception of bias toward the proponents, most strikingly with the previous government's recent appointment to the NEB the TransMountain consultant who had prepared key evidence on the economic justification for the project.

Only after these issues are resolved, the letter concludes, "can credible reviews of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and TransCanada Energy East pipelines be carried out."

Trudeau's position on fossil fuel pipelines has been mixed. Environmentalists rejoiced this summer when, on the campaign trail, Trudeau said that under his watch "the Northern Gateway Pipeline will not happen." Yet climate activists pounced last week when Trudeau expressed "disappointment" in the U.S. rejection of Keystone XL.

According to the Vancouver Sun:

Trudeau has voiced his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but has also said the approval system is broken and designed to support the previous government’s objectives. The Liberals have pledged to overhaul the federal environmental review process so future projects would have the public trust.

In an interview Wednesday with the Globe and Mail, new Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said Trudeau's cabinet has a mandate "for Canada to be part of the solution to climate change and not only part of the problem. And that's fantastic."

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