ACTION ALERT: My submission to the NEB

Jun 23, 2016
Diana Chan

As we mentioned earlier this month, Enbridge's permits for the Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project are expiring at the end of the year, and they are asking the National Energy Board (NEB) for a three year extension. We need to do everything we can to ensure that Enbridge never builds this pipeline. So we are urging all our supporters to send a letter by June 27th demanding the NEB deny Enbridge's request. 

If you need inspiration, below is my letter and here are some talking points that will help you get your thoughts on to paper before you fax or mail them to the NEB. (Please note - email is not an option this time!) 

Canada Post and facsimile machines too retro for you? 

Dogwood BC has a form that allows you to fax your letter to the NEB over the Internet. If paper letters aren't your thing, or if you don't have access to a fax machine, this is the tool for you.

- Diana

Ms. Sheri Young

Secretary to the Board
National Energy Board
517 Tenth Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2R 0A8

June 23, 2016

Dear Ms. Young,

I am writing today to insist that the National Energy Board (NEB) deny the request to extend the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project’s sunset clauses.

Since the permits were granted for Northern Gateway, there have been several developments in policy, science, and economics that render the project impermissible, and a three-year permit extension unnecessary. These include an upcoming crude oil tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast, Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitments to reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, new research on the behaviour and impacts of diluted bitumen and tankers on the marine environment, and a dramatic decrease in oil prices.

First and foremost, I urge the NEB to consider the fact that the Government of Canada intends to formalize an oil tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast - and that it does so with the support of First Nations, municipalities, organizations, and citizens. Last November, Prime Minister Trudeau issued Ministerial Mandate Letters directing the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard “to formalize the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, including the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.” (1) When this moratorium takes effect, Northern Gateway will be unable to proceed because it relies on the transportation of crude oil via tankers through these areas of the Great Bear Sea. Should the NEB approve the extension, Cabinet will be forced to revoke it or render it irrelevant when the tanker ban is formalized later this year.

Another new commitment by the federal government relevant to the Northern Gateway extension request occurred in April of this year when Prime Minister Trudeau signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. This commitment to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 will require emissions to be reduced by 208 million tons. Currently, Canada is not on track to meet this target, with emissions actually continuing to rise. Of note, it appears that pollution from the oil sands is even worse than previously known; research by Environment and Climate Change Canada scientists published this month in the journal Nature demonstrate that pollution from oil sands vapor, which contributes to climate change, is substantial. (2) If Canada is going to deliver on the Paris Agreement commitment and others like it, a full analysis of Northern Gateway’s GHG contributions for the project’s entire life cycle, including an analysis of how the project supports Canada’s plan to reduce GHG emissions is imperative before an extension could be approved.

There have been other advancements in scientific research that should be considered in light of the Northern Gateway extension request. Notably, since the conclusion of the Joint Review Panel hearings in 2013, new scientific reports have confirmed the propensity of diluted bitumen to sink or submerge in coastal zones with suspended sediment. (3, 4) In the event of a spill, this could render the cleanup and recovery of sunken and submerged diluted bitumen in the coastal environment difficult or impossible. Another recent study demonstrates that noise from ships (including tankers) extends into the high frequencies used by killer whales for echolocation and communication, potentially masking clicks and calls that are used for foraging, navigation, and maintaining their complex social bonds. (5) This research will be of particular interest to the NEB because tankers from the Northern Gateway project would travel through important areas for northern resident killer whales, including candidate areas for critical habitat designation. As stated in the “Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada”, “it is important that the threat of a degraded underwater acoustic environment be managed in critical habitat.” (6)

Lastly, in addition to changes in policy and scientific understanding, economic factors have also changed since the NEB’s original approval for Northern Gateway. As Northern Gateway concedes in its extension request, oil prices have dropped sharply and the economic conditions justifying the need for the tanker and pipeline project have changed. (7)

Due to this collection of significant and wide-ranging changes in circumstances since project approval was granted in 2013, I insist that a sunset clauses extension would not be appropriate, and I urge the NEB to reject Northern Gateway’s proposal accordingly.

Thank you for your consideration.

Diana Chan
Conservation Biologist



1. Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada. Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Mandate Letter. (2015).
2. Liggio, J. et al. Oil sands operations as a large source of secondary organic aerosols. Nature 534, 91–94 (2016).
3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Spills of Diluted Bitumen from Pipelines: A Comparative Study of Environmental Fate, Effects, and Response. (The National Academies Press, 2016).
4. Government of Canada. Properties, Composition and Marine Spill Behaviour: Fate and Transport of Two Diluted Bitumen Products from the Canadian Oil Sands. (2013).
5. Veirs, S., Veirs, V. & Wood, J. D. Ship noise extends to frequencies used for echolocation by endangered killer whales. PeerJ (2016).
6. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada. (2011).
7. Northern Gateway & Aboriginal Equity Partners. Condition 2 Request for Extension of the Sunset Clause. (2016).

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