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Northern Gateway Tar Sands Project—A Big Step Backward for Canada
The July 23 announcement by the British Columbia government, setting out safety requirements for the $6 billion Northern Gateway Project, makes it clear it views an oil spill as inevitable.
The B.C. Environment Ministry stated in a release that, "work has now been completed to assess what would be required to establish British Columbia and Canada as world leaders in marine oil spill response."
This is not a level of competency—world-class or otherwise—that the provincial government should be aspiring to, said Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation. Rather, B.C. should show leadership by investing in clean energy infrastructure and measures that will allow the province to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Furthermore, the B.C. government stated that the province should receive its "fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers." But Robinson said it would be impossible to compensate for the loss of pristine coastal habitat or the long-term damage to the fisheries and tourism industries.
"The majority of British Columbians would prefer that this province become a leader in sustainable marine ecosystem management, not oil spill response. As we saw with the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989, the environmental and economic effects of an oil spill on fisheries, tourism and recreation are devastating and last for generations," Robinson said.
Robinson added that construction of the Northern Gateway Project is a step backward towards achieving energy conservation and the use of clean and renewable resources, as set out in the province's Clean Energy Act. "What we need is a national energy strategy that values the environment. The Northern Gateway Project is a step backwards for B.C. and Canada."
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