Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tar Sands Oil Wins Over Whales

Despite scientific evidence on the issue being mixed at best, yesterday the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to remove humpback whales from its list of threatened species. Humpbacks will instead be classified as a "species of special concern." The end result of this decision by the Harper Government, well-known for its anti-science bias, is that the government is no longer required to protect habitat for the humpbacks. The endangered species legislation declares that “no person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of any … listed threatened species”, however such legislated protections are denied to species listed as a "special concern" and the Harper Government is no longer obligated to protect humpback habitat. The fact that the Harper Government, in its zeal to turn Canada into a third-rate petro-state, is pulling out all the stops to promote the Northern Gateway pipeline project which will result in increased oil tanker traffic and an increase in the risk of oil spills in humpback habitat on the west coast is, I'm sure, simply an astonishing coincidence. The government acknowledges in a statement that the downgrade "could result in small benefits to industry in the form of cost savings." Happy Earth Day from the Harper Government.
Needless to say, reaction has been swift and fairly negative. Even the generally conservative Globe and Mail issued a less-than-supportive editorial (and if you're a pro-business government and you've lost the support of the Globe, that's saying smething). One environmentalist echoed many of the sentiments of his peers (as related by the Vancouver Sun):
“There are outstanding questions about the scientific reliability and sufficiency of the information (the committee) used to make the determination to down-list humpback whales,” said Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
“The proposed change in status for humpback whales would place them in jeopardy, particularly given the impending threats” posed by Northern Gateway and the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to Burnaby, would increase the number of arriving tankers from eight to 28 per month.
Check out the graphic below from the Globe and Mail, and tell me it's not about oil profits over everything else as you consider the closing words of the Globe's editorial:
When it comes to weighing the environmental impact of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the government should err on the side of caution. In the case of the humpback whale, it is not even coming close to giving the impression of doing so.

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