U of T Professor Files Lawsuit Against Nat’l Energy Board

18 08 2014
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian PressFirst Nations canoes paddle on the waters of Burrard Inlet to the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Terminal of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in North Vancouver, B.C., on September 1, 2012.

A University of Toronto professor has launched a constitutional challenge against the National Energy Board for refusing to consider climate change while deciding pipeline expansion plans.

Danny Harvey, a professor in the department of geology, filed a Charter challenge after the energy board declined to hear scientific evidence on climate change during its hearings on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline Expansion Project.

The project will lead to “tarsand expansion, increase climate change and put future generations of Canadians at risk,” Harvey said in a statement, and called the expansion not just irresponsible but dangerous.

Harvey is out of the country on vacation, his lawyer said on Friday.

The constitutional challenge was served recently, said Joseph Arvay, a Vancouver lawyer.

“He (Harvey) believes that climate change is a very real and serious problem in our world and that pipelines will exacerbate the problem.”

Harvey applied to make submissions to the board in January and was refused in April, said Arvay, triggering the constitutional challenge.

(The energy board determined in 2013 that it would not consider oilsands expansion or climate change when reviewing the proposed pipeline expansion.)

This challenge should answer important questions, said Keith Stewart, the climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace.

“The energy board says that this isn’t the right place to ask that question (about climate change),” he said. “But scientists in the country will tell you there is actually no place you are allowed to ask that question.”

“So if it isn’t here, then where?”

The energy board considers the economic benefits from upstream oilsands development, including the jobs that are created, he pointed out.

“But it won’t look at the greenhouse gas emissions. So what a bunch of critics have said is you have to be consistent: you can’t be in for the economic benefits but out for the environmental costs.”

Greenhouse gas emissions have grown almost twice as fast in the past decade as they did in the previous 30 years, a report by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said earlier this year. It called for a shift from fossil fuels like oil to renewable energy to avoid rising sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events such as storms, flooding and droughts.

Kinder Morgan has applied to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain project, a 1,500-kilometre-long pipeline carrying bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the British Columbia coast. The proposal is to increase shipments from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 by 2017.

The energy board has also not included climate change in the list of issues for Energy East Pipeline Project, the TransCanada project that could potentially be one of the largest pipelines in North America. If cleared, it would span 4,600 km and move 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta to eastern Canadian refineries and export terminals.

TransCanada is expected to file its application with the board in the next few weeks.

In an emailed statement on Friday, the energy board would say only that it has received Harvey’s constitutional challenge and “will consider it and advise of our response.

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