The federal government is undermining the environmental review process for the proposed Enbridge pipeline by undertaking studies on waterways that could be shipping routes for oil tankers, the Green Party says.
On Wednesday, the party's sole B.C. MLA and only MP said Ottawa is proceeding with a "$100-million plus" project to research and model waterways in the Kitimat and Hecate Straits region.
MLA Andrew Weaver and MP Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, characterized the research as a subsidy for Northern Gateway, a proposed $6.5-billion project to channel Alberta oil sands crude to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia. They said, in a statement, that the studies are at odds with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's commitment to await the outcome of review panels of the project.
"The federal government is proceeding as if the Enbridge project is going ahead," Mr. Weaver said in an interview. "The feds are stepping up to do research that should be being done by industry."
Mr. Weaver said he is hoping the B.C. government will restate its opposition to the project as now planned. "We need to know that no means no as opposed to no meaning a pathway to yes," he said.
Asked about the Green Party assertions, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday that Gateway won't proceed without B.C. consent. At this point, Ms. Clark said the project does not meet five conditions set out by the province. They include an environmental review approval, world-leading measures for preventing or dealing with oil spills, and a fair share of fiscal and economic benefits for B.C.
"The thing that the Green Party and my party have in common is this: We take a clear position and we stick with it," Ms. Clark told reporters in Vancouver.
Documents released by the Green Party show the federal government plans to develop new models for atmospheric and ocean interactions on B.C.'s central coast, from near Prince Rupert to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
That area contains Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance – three areas through which oil tankers would have to pass if Enbridge's plan to build a pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat is approved.
The project is being studied by a joint review panel appointed by the National Energy Board. The panel has finished hearing final arguments and is to submit a report to the government by December.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said, in a statement, that his government would not make decisions before the review process confirms development would be safe for the environment. He added that the supposedly leaked material the Greens were referring to was openly announced last March as part of an effort to ensure tanker safety and world-class marine safety on Canada's coastlines.