BC Hydro and a U.S.-based company have proposed building a natural gas pipeline across southern Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island.

GSX Concerned Citizens Coalition
www.sqwalk.com

Georgia Strait Crossing Pipeline: Call for Help!


Dear Friends

Now that the Georgia Strait Crossing Pipeline (GSXPL) hearing is over and the evidence is being considered by the Joint Review Panel, it is time for all individuals and groups who are concerned about the GSXPL project to send letters to:

The Prime Minister, Right Hon. Jean Chretien, pm@pm.gc.ca
Minister of Environment, Hon. David Anderson, Anderson.D@parl.gc.ca
Minister of Heritage & Parks, Hon. Sheila Copps, Copps.S@parl.gc.ca
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Hon. Robert Thibault. Thibault.R@parl.gc.ca

They can all be reached by mail at:
House of Commons, Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario,
K1A OA6

(no postage required)

Sample Letter 1
Sample Letter 2


Why write a letter?


The environmental effects of the GSXPL project are significant. The Prime Minister and these Ministers ultimately have the authority to approve this project. They need to know about the important economic and environmental issues arising from this project.

This means that during the period before the GSXPL Joint Review Panel (JRP) provides a report to the Minister of Environment it is particularly important to raise awareness in Ottawa about the environmental effects of the project and of the public’s concerns. Once a report is submitted to the Minister of Environment for a decision, and the federal authorities and responsible authorities comment on the issues of possible significant adverse environmental and cumulative effects, it is almost too late to make your views known.

What are the issues?

1. Need for the Project

There are better ways to bring energy to Vancouver Island. From the outset of this proposed project the public has been questioning BC Hydro’s the need for the project because there are lower cost, less environmental damaging ways to provide energy to Vancouver Island. Using BC Hydro’s own cost estimates, the high voltage undersea cable (HVDC) will cost $187 mil. vs.$ 322 mil. for the pipeline. Even when other project components are added in, the HVDC option is still less expensive.

Because of this public concern, the Minister of Environment explicitly recognized the need to evaluate alternatives to the project as part of the Agreement between his office and the NEB for the JRP under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). However, under oath, in cross examination, GSXPL stated that it did not conduct an environmental effects assessment of the undersea sea cable option and appears to believe there is no need to do one.


2 Environmental Effects of GSXPL

Because of its haste to push this project through the regulatory process, GSXPL has placed its faith in inadequate baseline data, qualitative studies, unproven mitigation measures and in subjective and arbitrary “professional opinion”(an excuse which its environmental consultant used to paper over huge gaps in their application). Consequently a thorough analysis of the environmental effects of the project was not undertaken as required under the CEAA. As a result, it is impossible to determine if it is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Here are some of the problems associated with this pipeline proposal:

  • The pipeline corridor goes directly through the proposed southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area and through the habitat of the Southern Resident Population of killer whales which is listed as “endangered” by COSEWIC.

  • The killer whale population is particularly at risk from persistent toxic chemicals. While GSXPL acknowledged toxins are a contributing factor in the decline of this population they have refused to consider the toxins levels which pipeline construction could stir up or which toxins may be reintroduced and how much of it could influence the food chain to marine mammals.

  • Killer whales are also subject to significant noise interference from boats and ships due to the proximity of their summer range to Victoria and Vancouver and this affects foraging and prey availability because of increased noise. GSXPL has relied on anecdotal information from fishermen rather than on scientific studies for habitat needs and as a result no baseline data were provided on these endangered species. As well, no acoustic studies were conducted for the construction phase of the project, no consideration given to the environmental effects of possible pipeline leaks and no mitigation measures to reduce impacts were considered.

  • A potentially isolated year-round harbour porpoise population lives in the southern Strait of Georgia. The proposed the pipeline corridor goes directly through the middle of their habitat. If they are dislocated, there is likely no other place for these small marine mammals to go. GSXPL has not only failed to identify the existence this unique population but is unwilling to evaluate the habitat needs or environmental effects of the pipeline on this species which are listed as threatened by the B.C. Government. Similarly no studies have been conducted for resident Steller sea lions, also listed as threatened by the province.

  • GSXPL also failed to identified 14 current Great Blue Heron nests along the land portion of the pipeline corridor (a very noisy COSEWIC listed species) and, similarly, while construction is planned for the winter, no studies were undertaken to identify winter water birds along the shoreline, many of which are also listed as threatened or endangered.

  • No predator prey relationships have been studied with respect to Dungeness crab, a major commercial fishing industry in the region, nor are there proven mitigation measures to ensure crab and other epifauna are able to cross the pipeline for breeding and feeding purposes. In consequence an important income source for fisherman is threatened.

  • Finally, species living in mud below the surface were sampled at only two small areas along some 40 km. of pipeline route. A remotely operated vehicle was used to survey animal life on hard bottoms. With this system organisms less than 5 cm in size were not identified and larger organisms which blended in were likely missed. In effect only a minority of organisms were identified and the true biodiversity is unknown.

3. Cumulative Effects

The Cheviot Mine Project Decision by the Federal Court of Appeals (A-430-98) is very explicit in that a JRP must ensure there is adequate data to conduct a proper Cumulative Effects Assessment which, in turn, must be completed before submitting a report to the Minister. In the Cheviot case, the Panel was required by the Court to go back to lower court to determine what was sufficient data. In the subsequent decision the applicant was required to conduct cumulative effects modeling to assess the impacts of the mine with other projects, past and present and future. It also required human use inventory and modeling as well as future projects of industrial impacts. If this is the standard for cumulative effects assessment in Canada:

  • GSXPL has yet to conduct any type of quantitative modeling or focused field surveys to support their general habitat classification and mapping.


  • No assessment been conducted to determine the extent to which habitat impacts may affect sensitive species or how habitat fragmentation resulting from the project may affect food chains and food webs.

  • No attempt has been made to integrate vegetation and wildlife inventories (eg.marine flora and fauna).

  • No analysis has been conducted on how the effects of likely projects in the study area will overlap and combine during construction, operation, or decommissioning of the pipeline.

  • Finally, many of mitigation measures proposed by GSXPL are unproven and thus are uncertain in terms of effectiveness and there is no mitigation measure proposed at all for marine mammals!

Therefore, in the absence of the critical evidence necessary to consider the environmental and cumulative effects of the pipeline and the significance of those effects as required by the CEAA, let the various ministers know that you consider that it would be wrong for the federal government to let the project proceed. GSXPL has neither satisfied the ultimate burden of proof or burden of persuasion, nor has it submitted evidence to meet the evidentiary burden imposed upon it by law.


4. Conflicting political challenges

The Prime Minister announced as part of his legacy to Canada the intention of his Government to create one of the first three National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCA) in the southern Georgia Strait. This is because he and the Minister of Heritage and Parks believe there is a need to protect the rich biodiversity and ecological value of these waters. Yet GSXPL continues to press for a pipeline route through most of the NMCA.

  • S Parks Canada after evaluating GSXPL does not support the project and cites uncertainty of environmental effects and insufficient data as well as possible cumulative impacts not only of those created by the pipeline but those in addition to the stresses already evident in the southern Strait of Georgia. In other words, Parks Canada is of the view that the ecological integrity of the area will be compromised before the NMCA is established.

  • Parks Canada as well as the Canadian Wildlife Service are considered “expert federal authorities” whose task it is to advise “Responsible Authorities”(RA). RA’s, in turn, under CEAA, make the decision whether the project has significant adverse environmental effects.

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is a “Responsible Authority”. Discussions are underway with GSXPL to develop pre-approval monitoring and mitigation strategies for the project. Notwithstanding discussions with DFO, GSXPL selected a pipeline route which passes directly though the habitat of several endangered and threatened marine mammal species without ever consulting the marine mammals section of DFO during the preparation of their EIA.

  • The Marine Mammal Section in DFO, on the other hand, is in the process of amending the Marine Mammal Regulations to reduce the impact of human interactions with marine mammals in their environment. The reasons given are activities such as whale watching and recreational boating, but it is also because of the impacts of increasing industrialization which keep marine mammals away from their preferred habitats or interfering with their daily activities. Put another way DFO, in an effort to apply the precautionary principle to fisheries management, is developing more prescriptive laws to protect these species.

  • Recognizing that regulation-making takes time, and to apply the precautionary principal now, DFO is also working with the whale watching industry and local groups in southern British Columbia to reduce impacts on marine mammals in the southern Strait of Georgia NMCA. This effort is to provide reduced noise - safe spaces - for the species to feed and socialize.

What happens if the JRP approves this project and significant adverse environmental effects do occur to marine mammals during or after the pipeline is built? What will be left to protect? At present there are no technically and economically feasible post-construction mitigation measures which can be employed to protect marine mammals. Put another way, how do you resurrect a marine mammal population once it has been destroyed? Do we believe in protecting Endangered Species?

The Species At Risk Act (SARA) received Royal Assent in December, 2002. The Act challenges federal wildlife agencies with management authority for species at risk (i.e., the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada), particularly with respect to the identification of critical habitat. Critical habitat, as defined in SARA, "means the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.”

There is compelling evidence that GSXPL has not conducted an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment. Yes, Joint Review Panel may recognize the inadequacy of the application. We should support their efforts. However, SARA offers a solution. The Act gives Ministers emergency authority to have species listed and take action to prohibit the destruction of critical habitat for a listed species if a species is in imminent danger. This can be achieved by an Emergency Listing and Order. Why?

  • The southern Strait of Georgia harbour porpoises are a potentially genetically isolated year-round population. If they are displaced by the pipeline, there may not be a place for them to go.

  • The Southern Resident Population of killer whales has been designated for a recovery action plan to start in 2003 but this will take time to develop and may be too late if GSXPL is approved.

  • The southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area will be designed to protect marine species and their habitats. Ministers can apply the precautionary principle and take action following the report of the Joint Review Panel to save these species before it is too late!



SAMPLE LETTER 1

Dear Minister:

RE: Georgia Strait Crossing Pipeline Project (GSXPL)

I am writing to alert you to my(our) concerns about the GSXPL project which was recently reviewed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and National Energy Board Act Joint Review Panel.
At the hearing it became evident that there are better, less expensive ways to provide energy to Vancouver Island. Using BC Hydro’s own cost estimates of upgrading and restoring the existing high voltage undersea cable (HVDC) will cost $187 million vs. $320 for the GSXPL.

Of equal importance, there is compelling evidence that the negative environmental effects of GSXPL are significant. Here are some of the problems associated with this pipeline proposal.

The pipeline corridor goes directly through the proposed southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), recently announced by the Prime Minister and Minister of Heritage & Parks. It also goes through the habitat of the Southern Resident Population of the killer whales which are listed as “endangered” by COSEWIC. No mitigation measures are proposed by GSXPL to ensure these whales are protected.

A potentially isolated year round harbour porpoise population lives in the southern Strait of Georgia. The proposed pipeline corridor goes directly through the middle of their habitat. If they are dislocated, there is probably no other place for these marine mammals to go. Harbour porpoises are listed threatened by the B.C. government. GSXPL has not only failed to identify the existence of this population but is unwilling to evaluate the habitat needs of this species.

GSXPL also failed to identify 14 current Great Blue Heron nests along the land portion of the pipeline corridor although local residents had advised them of the nests over two years ago. These birds are also listed as threatened by COSEWIC.

Dungeness crab is a major commercial fishing industry in the region. There is no proven mitigation measure to ensure crabs are able to cross the pipeline for breeding and feeding purposes. In consequence an important income source for local fishers is threatened.

The Joint Review Panel may recognize the inadequacy of the GSXPL application and I (we) support their work. But, if they do not and this project is approved and environmental effects occur after the pipeline is built, what will be left to protect? There are no technically or economically feasible post construction mitigation measures that can be employed to protect species at risk. How do we bring back an extinct marine mammal population in the National Marine Conservation Area?

The solution is the Species At Risk Act which gives the Ministers of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans and Parks emergency authority to prohibit the destruction of critical habitat if species are in imminent danger. The marine mammals in the proposed southern Strait of Georgia NMCA deserve this kind of protection before it is too late. Please take action to save this important legacy for all Canadians.



28 March 2003

SAMPLE LETTER 2

To: Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Hon. David Anderson, Minister of the Environment
Hon. Robert Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Sheila Copps, Minister of Heritage and Parks

House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Dear Minister (x) or Dear Prime Minister Chrétien:

RE: Georgia Strait Crossing (GSX) Proposed Natural Gas Pipeline

I am writing to alert you to my (our) concerns about the GSX project, which was recently reviewed by a Joint Review Panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Energy Board.

Under the National Energy Board Act, the NEB can only approve GSX subject to approval of the federal cabinet. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Minister of the Environment must consider the report of the Panel to determine whether the environmental impacts of GSX would be justified in the circumstances. Therefore, this is a matter on which you (your government) have responsibility.

I (we) believe GSX has not been shown to be necessary or justified, and that you (your government) should not allow it to be built.

At the hearing it became evident that a better, less expensive way to provide energy to Vancouver Island would be by replacing or refurbishing some of the sub-sea electrical cables currently supplying Vancouver Island with electricity. Depending of which cable option was used, this could cost around $200 million, as compared to $320 million for GSX. In addition, the cost of the proposed Vancouver Island Generation Project (VIGP) at Duke point would cost some $340 million. Contrary to BC Hydro's assertion, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that another power plant would be required on the mainland if GSX and VIGP were not built.

At the same time, there are strong reasons to reject GSX on environmental grounds. Gas transported by GSX would be burned to release some 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. This would increase BC Hydro's system-wide emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 80 percent and increase BC's total greenhouse gas emissions by about 3 percent. Given the scientifically demonstrated hazard of global climate change and given Canada's international commitment, under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, this is unjustified, absent a strong demonstrated need for the project.

I (we) believe a $660 million investment in fossil fuel infrastructure plus a legal commitment by BC Hydro to supply some $5 billion of natural gas to VIGP over the next thirty years would strongly discourage the development of any green energy alternatives to fossil fuels or energy conservation measures, both of which would be environmentally preferable to GSX. BC Hydro's own Green Energy studies (Phase I and II) show strong evidence that green energy can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

The pipeline corridor goes directly through the proposed southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), recently announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Heritage and Parks. This southern Gulf Islands area has unique natural attributes and should be protected, without disruption, as a legacy for all Canadians.

GSX would traverse the habitat of the Southern Resident Population of the killer whales (orcas), which are listed as “endangered” by COSEWIC. No mitigation measures are proposed by GSXPL to ensure these whales are protected. GSX would also traverse the habitat of the sole surviving population in the Strait of Georgia of the harbour porpoise, a species listed as "threatened" by the B.C. government. The harbour porpoise is noise-averse and probably dependent on its specific habitat. If disturbed by GSX, these porpoises may have no alternative feeding grounds and could be extirpated from the Strait of Georgia. This would be irreversible.

There are fundamental inadequacies in the proponent's collection of marine baseline data, which mean that no scientifically valid conclusions can be drawn about the effects of GSX. For example, the proponent failed to identify the existence of the harbour porpoise in the pipeline corridor. They also failed to identify 14 current Great Blue Heron nests along the land portion of the pipeline corridor. These birds are listed as threatened by COSEWIC.

I (we) urge you (your government) (a) to conclude that the environmental effects of GSX are not justified under the circumstances; (b) invoke an Emergency Listing and Order under the Species At Risk Act (SARA) to ensure the protection of the harbour porpoises and the Southern Resident Population of orcas from disruption by GSX; (c) refuse to approve a determination by the National Energy Board that GSX is necessary or in the public interest.

Sincerely,
etc.