Ottawa, ON – Media reports today confirm that, as the budget outlined, the natural resources minister will weaken environmental protection rules. This means that Big Oil will get a free pass to do whatever it wants and citizens will be saddled with the risk of oil spills, toxic contamination and climate change.
“These changes make it clear that powerful oil interests are running the show with the federal government bending over backwards to do their bidding,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “It won’t be much comfort to people dealing with a dangerous oil spill in their backyard that the company will get a slap on the wrist when government could have prevented the problem in the first place with a real assessment of the risks.”
The environmental assessment process was put in place to make sure the environmental and health impacts of big industry projects were considered up front, and to require companies to take steps to minimize those impacts. Today’s announcement weakens that key environmental protection measure at the same time as offices that deal with oil spills are being closed across the country. In 2010, a rupture in an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan spilled almost 3 million litres of tar sands oil and caused local residents to suffer health impacts.
New tar sands mines and pipelines threaten water, land and human health across the country, yet under the new rules announced today mean that Canadians who will be at risk will have even less of a say. Key federal agencies such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will no longer play a role in environmental assessments. This raises concerns about the protection of fish, rivers and oceans. Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline would cross 800 streams and rivers, many important salmon habitat, and send supertankers along B.C.’s coast.
“Everyone agrees we can’t flip a switch to get off fossil fuel, but Canada is getting left behind in making the transition to clean energy that is needed to prevent dangerous climate change,” said McEachern. “Instead of taking advantage of the good jobs that can be created today to spur that transition, the federal government is paving the way for Big Oil to get every last drop out of the ground no matter the cost to Canadians.”
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
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For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
Gillian McEachern, Environmental Defence, 613.292.4416; gmceachern@environmentaldefence.ca