Elizabeth May says Tory ‘culture’ embedded in environmental reviews

The leader of the federal Green Party says she’s worried about the “contamination” of the regulatory systems used to approve high-profile energy projects, following the conditional approval granted this week to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

“We have a system of rubber stamping bad projects while giving the minister talking points that say it’s gone through a rigorous scientific review,” Elizabeth May said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House.

“I greatly fear the culture of the previous 10 years remains deeply embedded throughout the regulatory regimes … and I just don’t want to rubber stamp dangerous projects where the colour of the ink has changed, and that’s the only thing that’s happened after the election.”

The proposed project would bring natural gas via pipeline to a terminal on Lelu Island, south of Prince Rupert at the mouth of the Skeena River. Some First Nations and environmentalists argue the project will put the salmon fishery at risk.

May said the environmental regulatory system has been “reprogrammed” to approve most projects.

“The fact that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans signed off on the project and said it would not affect the Skeena salmon run is to me a sign that we have a very large problem that runs much deeper than politics,” she said.

On Tuesday, Catherine McKenna said the review of the liquefied natural gas project was “rigorous,” and based on both the “best available science and on Indigenous traditional knowledge.”

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency — which May referred to as “hostile” in her interview with The House host Chris Hall — released a draft report in February that said the project would result in roughly 6.5 to 8.7 megatonnes of greenhouse gas pollution each year.

Since that draft report, the agency has revised its estimate down closer to the five-megatonne level, or about the equivalent of one million new cars on Canadian roads each year.

But McKenna’s approval this week attached the condition that the project emit no more than 4.3 megatonnes when fully operational, including no more than 3.2 megatonnes from the LNG terminal.

Pacific Northwest LNG Prospects 20160928

There are concerns that Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposal to build the export terminal on Lelu Island would threaten a salmon habitat in the Skeena River estuary and the eelgrass beds around Flora Bank. (Canadian Press)

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