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Tanker research 'subsidy' to Enbridge, Greens say

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May - Tom Fletcher/Black Press
Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

VICTORIA – Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May accused the Conservative government Wednesday of "doing Enbridge's homework" with $120 million program to study ocean weather and behaviour of heavy oil spills in the ocean around Kitimat.

At a news conference in Victoria, May added her voice to that of Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, who raised questions in the B.C. legislature in July about an ocean monitoring project in support of oil tanker exports as proposed by Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project.

May and Weaver released leaked documents they say show Ottawa spending $78 million this year and $42 million next year for marine weather monitoring and determining how diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands would behave in a spill.

May said federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty changed the federal budget documents this year to conceal changes to ministry and program spending, making it impossible for MPs to identify spending on programs such as the ocean monitoring on B.C.'s North Coast.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued a statement Wednesday, rejecting May's accusation of secrecy. Oliver said he announced the program publicly in Vancouver in March.

"Work on tanker safety is critical to ensure we have we have world-class marine safety on Canada's coastlines," Oliver said. "While the Green Party and the NDP oppose resource development projects before the science is in, our government will not make decisions until an independent scientific review determines they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment."

Weaver said the investment amounts to a subsidy to Enbridge, which should do its own research on environmental effects of its pipeline and tanker port proposal. He cited a Fisheries and Oceans Canada document that concludes "behaviour models specific to [diluted bitumen] do not exist, and existing commercial models for conventional oil do not allow parameter specific modifications."

Weaver called on the B.C. government to reiterate its opposition to Northern Gateway, which was detailed in the province's final submission to the federal environmental assessment panel that concluded hearings this spring.

He said Premier Christy Clark has backed away from opposition to the project since the May provincial election, and has focused on improving relations with Alberta.

Clark told reporters in Vancouver Wednesday her position on heavy oil pipelines hasn't changed, with five conditions for support including "world class" oil spill prevention and response capability.

 

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