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12-Mile Limit for Tanker Assessment Could Put NEB on ‘Another Collision Course with the Courts’

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The National Energy Board’s decision to limit its reassessment of oil tanker traffic from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to a range of 12 nautical miles from the coast, rather than 200, is raising questions about how seriously the Board is taking the process—and could set the review up for yet another court challenge, according to one of the groups involved in the original legal battle against the project.

“From the get-go it looks like a political exercise, not an environmental one,” said conservation biologist Misty MacDuffee of British Columbia’s Rainforest Conservation Foundation. In its original review, the NEB acknowledged that increased tanker traffic would have a negative impact on the southern resident orca pod—but decided marine shipping fell outside its purview, until an August 30 Federal Court of Appeal ruling quashed Ottawa’s approval of the C$9.3-billion project.

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NEB Chief Environment Officer Dr. Robert Steedman “said the decision to limit the area of the assessment to 12 nautical miles, known as the territorial sea limit, was based on the comments received from interested parties,” The Canadian Press reports. “The precise reasons for the decision won’t be made public by the board until next week.

But “Raincoast had wanted the new review to cover the area known as the exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from shore. MacDuffee said the 12-mile distance could leave out a number of endangered or at-risk whales, such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales,” CP states, putting the NEB ‘on another collision course with the courts for failing to do a broad enough assessment.’