Burnaby Mountain arrests show B.C. needs its own environmental review process

      Comments Off on Burnaby Mountain arrests show B.C. needs its own environmental review process
The people arrested this week on Burnaby Mountain have shown what happens when a project review disrespects local governments, local people and First Nations.

They have shown that when the serious and heartfelt concerns of communities are disregarded, when people who care are shut out of the process, the only recourse left is to protest.

Charges laid this week were dropped after Kinder Morgan admitted the GPS co-ordinates it submitted in its injunction were inaccurate. In the days before, more than 100 people were arrested, including SFU professors, an 84-year-old retired librarian and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

These are honourable people. They are people with serious concerns about a project with provincewide impact, which could affect the health, safety and sustainability of their communities. And their voices are not being heard through the official review process.

That process — the National Energy Board’s review of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion — is deeply flawed. Whether or not you agree with the expansion of this pipeline, it is clear that we need to give our 30 days’ notice and withdraw from the Joint Review process. We need to strengthen our made-in-B.C. environmental assessment process and use this instead.

The proposed pipeline would ship diluted bitumen — not conventional crude — through protected parkland to be loaded on supertankers in the Lower Mainland. It would result in an expected nine-fold increase in tanker traffic off B.C.’s South Coast, and so far no spill cleanup plan is in place.

The impact of this project on the province — and particularly on areas through which the pipeline runs — will be enormous. It will also be long-lasting and nearly impossible to reverse.

Because of the scope and impact of the project, people in this province had a right to expect that the review process would be equally broad in its scope, and that their voices would be heard. But what they got instead is a process that shows that Stephen Harper’s government is not interested in hearing what British Columbians think.

The NEB review of this project has been extraordinarily undemocratic. Out of 2,000 questions submitted and not answered by Trans Mountain, the review allowed 95 per cent to be rejected, and compelled the company to answer only 5 per cent. The provincial government submitted questions too, and the review refused to answer 80 of those questions.

The board running the review has even refused oral cross examination of Trans Mountain’s submission, and are seemingly content to review the untested evidence provided by the company.

It’s no wonder that people have concluded that this review is not in the business of collecting evidence, but rather driving ahead Kinder Morgan’s project, regardless of the opposition it hears (or refuses to hear). This, after all, is what the NEB did when it encountered massive opposition in this province to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Unfortunately, Premier Christy Clark gave away control of B.C.’s future when she signed the Equivalency Agreement, which handed the Harper government control of the review process and the final decision on projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

But even the B.C. Liberals, who have shown a limited interest in protecting our air, land and water, must see that it is time to withdraw from this agreement and instead use a process through which the concerns of British Columbians will be heard.

It is past time that our provincial leaders reject the idea of simply accepting the verdict of environmental reviews that ignore the interests of British Columbians, and instead use our made-in-B.C. environmental assessment process — a process which is already in place and provided for under B.C. law.

Spencer Chandra Herbert is the B.C. New Democrat spokesperson for the environment.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun