Pipeline project would pose unacceptable risks to marine environment, orcas

VANCOUVER – The National Energy Board recommended today that the Trans Mountain pipeline project be approved by federal cabinet, assuming project proponents meet certain requirements around Indigenous consultation and reducing the harmful effects of increased marine traffic on the nearby marine environment – notably, the 75 remaining imperiled southern resident orcas.

“Today’s NEB review ignores the true risks that increased tanker traffic – or worse, a catastrophic oil spill – poses to the local marine environment,” David Suzuki Foundation director-general for Western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “We’re already failing to do enough to protect the 75 remaining southern resident orcas. Their future is literally in question. We simply can’t justify more hazards to their environment – like the increased marine traffic, vessel noise and pollution this project would create. These significant impacts, on top of the climate implications of burning the products shipped in the pipeline, show this project is not in the national interest, as the NEB review claims.”

The David Suzuki Foundation is engaged with the federal government in new efforts to protect the orcas and recover their main source of prey – wild chinook salmon – with new measures expected to be in place by spring, before the orcas return to the Salish Sea to forage in summer.

“There simply isn’t room for more tanker traffic and vessel noise, let alone a catastrophic spill. The marine life in this area is already at its maximum threat level,” Ritchlin said. “We urge cabinet to fully recognize these risks, reject this NEB recommendation and not approve this project.”

Research by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation shows that the Trans Mountain project would increase the risk of southern resident orca extinction by almost 25 per cent, even if executed with no oil spills or ship strikes to whales. Incorporate the probable risk of ship strikes (one every five-to-10 years) and a single spill, and extinction becomes almost certain within the century.

“We recognize the challenge of transitioning to a clean energy economy. It’s a huge undertaking. But we need to see it as an opportunity to create a new, clean, renewably energy economy – one that everyone in Canada, especially Albertans, can help lead,” Ritchlin said.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, bglauser@davidsuzuki.org, 604-356-8829