After the Mayflower spill, make our voices heard
As the federal government prepares to make major changes to the way Canada reviews industrial projects, environmentalists are challenging the panel assessing the Northern Gateway pipeline to prove it’s not biased.
Over the past few weeks, federal ministers have carried out a high-profile dispute with environmental groups, some of which have been labelled “radicals.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he is working quickly to bring forward new rules creating more rapid review processes that can’t be “hijacked” by such groups. He has warned about “foreigners” gumming up regulatory processes. The clear inference was to the Gateway review.
Now, Ecojustice, a legal group representing environmental advocates, is questioning whether that political pressure is affecting the ability of the three-person joint federal review panel to properly assess Gateway, a $6.6-billion project that would carry Alberta crude to the West Coast for export to Asia and California.
In a motion filed Friday, Ecojustice asks the panel to determine whether statements from Mr. Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, “constitute an attempt by those ministers to undermine or have had the effect of undermining the panel” in a way that would create “unfairness in the hearing process.”
Ecojustice, which filed the motion on behalf of Living Oceans Society, Rainforest Conservation Foundation and ForestEthics, urges the panel to issue a statement confirming its independence.
It also wants the panel to urge the government to butt out, asking it to request “that ministers of the Crown refrain from further public comments on the proceedings of the panel and participants in the proceedings until the panel’s proceedings are concluded.”
[...] Mr. Page [Executive Director with Ecojustice] argued that calling environmental participants in the Gateway review “radicals” has affected their appearances before the panel. That alone, he said, begs for a response.