Stephen Harper declared that science would make the decision on the Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, forgetting, perhaps, that his government has been muzzling government scientists when not gutting their programs and cutting grant money.
The declaration was Harper’s way of staying out of the argument between British Columbia and Alberta on what kind of payment BC should get for taking on the risk of a pipeline through its territory and tankers on its shores.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not completed a risk assessment for waterways the proposed pipeline would cross and there may not be time for any such assessment before the official environmental review wraps up in December 2013.
The department wrote a letter to the panel noting that the assessments have not been completed, but stated that the work will continue and, should the project be approved, will be useful in the regulatory phase of the project.
Part of the problem, say critics, is the 92 jobs the department recently had to cut in BC. CBC reports that all but five of the department’s field offices will be shut down. Those offices include two in the north of BC that would have played a large role in reviewing the pipeline’s proposed route through the province.
One former scientist for the department referred to the Harper government cuts as disembowelment.
The department has presented the review panel with an assessment of the effects on fish and fish habitat, but they seem to be leaving the ecological risk assessment and the study of risks of a spill to Enbridge.
It seems unlikely that Enbridge will find much fault with Enbridge’s plan, despite their past failings.
Photo Credit: Ting Chen