Reject Northern Gateway, scientists urge PM in open letter – by Dene Moore (Globe and Mail – June 4, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Vancouver — The Canadian Press – A letter signed by hundreds of scientists from around the world is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject a federal panel report recommending approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The federal government must announce the final decision by June 17 on the 1,200-kilometre pipeline that would link the Alberta oil sands with a tanker port on the B.C. coast.

The letter sent this week to Harper and several key cabinet ministers said the report by the joint review panel is “indefensible as a basis to judge in favour of the project.”

It was signed by 300 scientists from universities from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, along with colleagues from international institutions including Stanford, Cornell and Oxford.

The chief concern from the group is that the panel did not look at the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the expansion in oil sands production.

“This isn’t the fault of the panellists,” said Kai Chan, an associate professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and one of the instigators of the petition. “Much more of it was really about the design of the process.”

The panel was not given a mandate from the federal government to look at the larger climate change picture, he said.

It’s a systemic problem, said Chan, a board member of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society who made a 10-minute presentation to the panel during 18-months of hearings.

“It just feels like we’re ostriches sticking our heads in the ground, pretending like we care about climate change and that we’re taking action on it but then not even allowing it to be a consideration on these huge projects that obviously have ramifications for climate change,” he said.

The joint Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency-National Energy Board panel issued a report in December recommending approval of Northern Gateway, with 209 conditions.

Janet Holder, Northern Gateway project leader, said the panel’s report is “based on sound science and fact, and included input from thousands of Canadians with a wide range of viewpoints and expertise.”

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