Greens release documents showing taxpayer dollars for pipeline research

Green Party leader Elizabeth May leaves a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Thursday, December 1, 2011. May will be attending the climate conference in Durban, South Africa on her own dime because the Canadian government has decided not to send her as well as other opposition MPs.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

BC and federal Green Party politicians have released documents they say show the federal government is subsidizing research to support the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

The documents (here, here and here) detail a plan dubbed the “Complementary Measures project”—a research initiative to study the wind, waves, currents and water depths in the Douglas Channel, a key portion of the proposed pipeline’s shipping route.

The project will collect and assess data needed to develop detailed models for how oil might move in the waters in the event of a spill, according to a submission to the Treasury Board. In particular, the document states, the research would fill a gap in understanding how diluted bitumen, as opposed to conventional crude oil, might move in ocean currents.

Diluted bitumen is produced in Alberta’s oil sands, and is what would be pumped via the Northern Gateway pipeline to the B.C. coastal town of Kitimat, and then shipped overseas.

The Greens say the research—a joint initiative between the departments of environment, transport, fisheries and oceans and natural resources—will cost $120 million. The first $78 million is being spent this fiscal year. Another $42 million will spent in 2012-15 if the pipeline is approved.

“Documents obtained from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reveal that at a time when core science is being cut across the Government of Canada, tax dollars are being spent to do Enbridge’s homework for them,” Weaver said in a prepared statement.

An Environment Canada powerpoint released by the Greens describes planned research efforts to gather more detailed information on surface winds and water current in the waterways from Kitimat to the Hecate Strait, which would be “used as key inputs in the execution of spill modelling tolls for oil spill assessment purposes.”

The Northern Gateway pipeline has been rocked with controversy and faces opposition from the B.C. Liberal party, which is demanding Enbridge meet series of measures before it will support the project—including “world class” spill response, recovery and prevention.

Approval, however, rests first in the hands of the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel, which is expected to release a decision by the end of the year. The panel released draft conditions in April that would force Enbridge to set aside $1 billion for oil spill research and recovery.

After that, the federal government has said it will make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline.