Killer Whales versus Trans Mountain pipeline – decision time

Court decision of national importance due this Thursday.

The decision on our legal challenge to the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is due tomorrow from Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal. This court ruling will encompass several challenges, including those from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the City of Vancouver, and Raincoast’s challenge of the federal Cabinet’s unlawful approval of the project based on consequences to BC’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Living Oceans Society are legally represented by Ecojustice in our challenge of the federal Cabinet’s unlawful approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

We requested the court send this unlawful approval back to Cabinet with instructions that it must meet all of the legal requirements, which include addressing the risks to Southern Resident killer whales. We argued that the National Energy Board (NEB) broke the law when it used an overly narrow interpretation of the law to avoid addressing harm to Southern Residents and their critical habitat in the Salish Sea, and that Cabinet subsequently broke the law by adopting the NEB’s report.

Raincoast’s population viability analysis has shown that with the combined increased threats from vessel noise, ship strikes and oil spills, there is a greater than 50% chance that Southern Resident killer whales will decline to such a small number they will be on an irreversible path to extinction within the next century if this project goes ahead as planned.

The expanded pipeline would cause a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through the Southern Resident killer whales’ critical habitat in the Salish Sea. Even without oil spills , the noise alone from this rise in tanker traffic significantly increases their risk of extinction (by 12-24%).

Approving the Trans Mountain expansion project without conditions to protect these endangered killer whales will only push the Southern Residents closer to extinction. We asked the court to compel the government to comply with the law and protect this critically endangered population from further harm.

Watch this space.

Killer Whales versus Kinder Morgan

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.