Friday, June 15, 2012

Cheap and dirty

Yesterday, I columnized about what seemed to be fairly unobjectionable purposes of environmental assessments:
The most recent spill into the Red Deer River paired a high-volume pipeline with a pristine area where a tributary feeds into multiple sources of drinking water. And in a proper assessment process, that combination would be identified as creating a high level of risk - requiring either mitigation in terms of where the pipeline is placed, extra precautions if no other alternative is available, or a serious re-evaluation as to whether the pipeline can safely be built in the first place.
Today, Peter O'Neil and Mike de Souza confirm that it's that type of balance that the Cons are determined to eliminate:
Federal fisheries officials were having "troubling" disagreements with Enbridge Inc. over the company's interpretation of its responsibility to protect fish habitat along the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline route before the company submitted its project proposal in 2010, according to internal documents.
Enbridge was concluding some of the crossings, over an estimated 1,000 waterways, were low risk when fisheries biologists felt the same were medium or high risk to fish and fish habitat, according to emails obtained through the Access to Information Act.
"There is not much movement (by Enbridge) for avoidance of sensitive areas," said one biologist at a February, 2010 meeting, according to a record of that gathering of four officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
"Sometimes the proponent is pushing for the cheapest option," said another meeting participant in his reply.
(F)rom January 1 to the tabling of recent Fisheries Act amendments company lobbyists met with a little more than100 government and opposition MPs, cabinet ministers and senior political and government officials, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright. 
One of the items on the company's wish-list, according to the federal lobbyist registry, was the desire for "improved efficiencies in the government secondary permitting processes for Department of Fisheries and Oceans permits . . . for pipeline construction."
So the entire purpose for gutting Canada's environmental legislation is to allow the oil industry to slap up the cheapest pipelines possible, with no regard for the environmental destruction which will predictably result.

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