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DFO Slams Kinder Morgan’s Shoddy Analysis of Oil Tankers’ Impact on Whales

A report submitted to the National Energy Board (NEB) by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) points to “insufficient information and analysis” in Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal as it relates to whale populations off the coast of British Columbia.

“There are deficiencies in both the assessment of potential effects resulting from ship strikes and exposure to underwater noise in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents,” the report says. “Ship strike is a threat of conservation concern, especially for…Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and other baleen whales.”

The report concludes that an increase in shipping intensity related to Kinder Morgan’s proposal would lead to an increase in threats to whale populations that occupy the Strait of Georgia and the Juan de Fuca Strait.

As covered by Blacklock’s Reporter the DFO analysis outlines Kinder Morgan’s failure to adequately address these concerns and “lack of an appropriate assessment framework” that would allow the department to evaluate the company’s claims.

Kinder Morgan’s current proposal would increase the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. The increased capacity would see a significant spike in oil tanker traffic on the Burrard Inlet, from around 60 to more than 400 per year.

Critical habitat for killer whales, proposed habitat for humpback whales and other important areas for marine mammals as outlined in Kinder Morgan's submission to the NEB. Click image to see original in report.

“It’s a big issue,” NDP MP Nathan Cullen told Blacklock’s. “It’s a global concern, particularly in an area where we have had recovery of whale species.”

“The process that is being used by the government so far is flawed, and the public has lost faith,” Cullen said of the NEB review process. “It doesn’t provide certainty and creates avenues for conflict.”

Cullen recently introduced Bill C-628, which seeks to ban oil tankers from the northern B.C. coast.

Last spring, the federal government downgraded the classification of humpback whales from “threatened” to “species of special concern” under the Species at Risk Act. The move provoked British Columbia's public interest groups, which saw the downgrade as an attempt by the federal government to eliminate a legal requirement to protect whale habitat along the B.C. coast.

In February 2014, the federal courts, prompted by an Ecojustice lawsuit, ruled the Harper government had failed to provide recovery strategies for 170 species at risk in Canada. Two months later the federal government reclassified humpback whales, eliminating the requirement for feeding ground protections.

The DFO review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project submission found the company only measured noise pollution in marine mammal habitat from one single tanker and did not include noise exposure from other marine traffic. Kinder Morgan also misapplied noise exposure models, leading to inaccurate results and did not use adequate measures to calculate potential whale strikes from oil tankers, the report found.

Image Credit: Trans Mountain

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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