Canada finally did the right thing when its Federal Court of Appeals quashed government approvals to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which would inevitably have further endangered the struggling Southern resident killer whale population that frequents Salish Sea waters. In its supposedly exhaustive study of this project’s impacts, Canada’s National Energy Board concluded that the project would not cause any significant adverse environmental impacts.
This conclusion was challenged in court by Canadian environmental groups and First Nations, in particular, the Squamish Nation of British Columbia. The Court sided with the project opponents, however, stating that the study did not adequately assess the impacts of marine shipping — the vastly increased oil-tanker traffic that would occur due to the expanded pipeline — on the orcas. It also found that the NEB and the Canadian federal government did not meaningfully consult with First Nations in the process of evaluating the project proposal.
“The NEB was a flawed process from the beginning,” said Tsleil Waututh leader Ruben George in a press conference on Thursday morning, Aug. 30. “The courts recognized that today.”
Although this may be the death knell for the ill-considered Trans Mountain project, its proponents (now the Canadian federal government, after Kinder Morgan shareholders enthusiastically approved its sale to Canada) will probably try again. But the project’s impacts on the orcas are considerable and unavoidable. Even without a major spill of tar-sand crude in Salish Sea waters, the underwater noise from an oil tanker a day passing through the orcas’ critical habitat will have a major adverse impact on the fate of this iconic but endangered species, now struggling for its very survival.
Gov. Inslee should, therefore, call publicly upon Prime Minister Trudeau to shut down the Trans Mountain project once and for all.