Fort St. James Sustainability Group applies pressure

The Fort St. James Sustainability Group is calling for both the provincial and municipal governments to take a stand on Northern Gateway.

The Fort St. James Sustainability Group is calling for both the provincial and municipal governments to take a stand on Northern Gateway.

The group will be presenting to the Fort St. James mayor and council at their May 23 council meeting.

“We won’t be asking Council to support or oppose the project,” said Kandace Kerr, a member of the Sustainability Group. “We are going to present our concerns and feelings, and ask them to consider them in making their decision.”

The group is asking other community members to speak up and let council know how they feel about the proposed pipeline.

“Here’s your opportunity to let District Council know how you feel about the project, your concerns about impacts on our community, and why it is important for them to take a public position on the project,” said Kerr.

The group also signed on to a letter to Premier Christy Clark earlier this month, hoping to add their voices to the call for the premier to take a stand.

The letter asked the premier to terminate the agreement to allow the federal environmental review of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to represent both provincial and federal government processes.

The group hoped signing on to the letter would help increase pressure on the premier to pull out of an agreement  regarding the project review.

The National Energy Board and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office in June of 2010 signed an agreement which essentially means the the federal review would stand for both parties.

“Robyn Allan in her letter to the government has stated the reasons very articulately and I don’t think we can say it better except to add that we elect people to represent us and to provide leadership in acting in the best interests of the people of this province,” said Louise Evans-Salt of the FSJ Sustainability Group. “The province has abdicated its right to review independently and as Allen has stated this gives a flawed and prejudiced process even more power to act in the best interest of a minority rather than represent and decide what is in the best interest of Canadians and in particular those who live and work in BC’s Northwest. The BC government needs to be part of this process not wait for the end decision. The point of a review is to hear all opinions and concerns which include that of the BC government.”

The letter to Clark, signed by a number of the intervenors currently participating in the Northern Gateway review process, said the federal government has broken its contract through the introduction of Bill C-38 which would shift the final decision making power on environmental reviews to the federal Cabinet. It would also put a 24-month deadline on completion of environmental assessments. This new deadline will retroactively apply to Northern Gateway, cutting short the review process already underway.

“The Federal Government has already publicly endorsed the project and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, concealed in Bill C-38, reduces the authority of the Joint Review Panel to merely making a recommendation that the Federal Cabinet can overrule.  We contend that a project which has been pre-emptively approved is no longer in accordance with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act, which directs the appropriate B.C. Minister(s) to make decisions on projects, not simply approve them with recommendations for mitigation,” states the letter.

However, both Clark and Terry Lake, her environment minister, have been steadfast in resisting pressure to take a stand prior to the completion of the federal review process currently underway.

“I don’t feel really rushed to do it,” said Lake to the Canadian Press. “You feel the political pressure to comment on it, but I think we have to be responsible and get all the information before we take a position.”

Since the letter went out, it has turned into a province-wide petition online: see the petition letter here.