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Big Oil doesn’t want the Navigable Waters Protection Act restored

The Council of Canadians wants the Navigable Waters Protection Act restored and enhanced.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has previously highlighted, “The Harper government killed the Navigable Waters Protection Act, stripping protections from 99 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada. Major pipelines and inter-provincial power lines now have the green light to cross over and under more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers without federal scrutiny.”

Among the promises made by the Liberals in their election platform, they stated, “Stephen Harper’s changes to the Fisheries Act, and his elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, have weakened environmental protections. We will review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards.”

The responsibility to do so falls to Transport Minister Marc Garneau and (acting) Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

But the Globe and Mail is already reporting, “The Liberal government is feeling pressure from industry over a campaign pledge to restore regulations surrounding project permits and environmental assessments after a series of changes by the Conservative government in 2012. The Trudeau government is planning to launch a consultation on the environmental assessment process, possibly this summer, and lobby groups are anticipating possible changes such as the relisting of specific rivers and navigable waters that the Harper government had removed from regulations.”

In February 2013, the Canadian Press explained, “The first budget omnibus bill [C-38] in June [2012] contained a replacement for the Environmental Assessment Act and also a provision to remove pipelines and power lines from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. …But then the government surprised many close observers by going even further in a second omnibus bill, C-45 [in December 2012]. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was changed to the Navigation Protection Act, significantly reducing its scope over Canada’s waters.”

That article adds, “Documents obtained through the Access to Information Act show [that the radical overhaul of the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the Harper government’s C-45 omnibus bill] came, in part, from the pipeline industry. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association met with senior government officials in the fall of 2011, urging them not just to streamline environmental assessments, but also to bring in ‘new regulations under [the] Navigable Waters Protection Act’, a CEPA slide presentation shows.”

And the CBC notes that the request for changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and other acts (including the Fisheries Act) came in December 2011 from, “A group called the Energy Framework Initiative (EFI), which is made up of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (now the Canadian Fuels Association) and the Canadian Gas Association.”

Just some of the members of just one of these groups – the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – includes: BP Canada Energy ULC, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc., Chevron Canada Resources, ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corp., Corridor Resources Inc., Encana Corporation. ExxonMobil Canada Ltd., Husky Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Resources, Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC, Marathon Oil Canada Corporation, Murphy Oil Company Ltd., Nexen Energy ULC (a wholly owned subsidiary of CNOOC Limited), Shell Canada Energy, Suncor Energy, Syncrude Canada Ltd. and Total E&P Canada Ltd.

While we are pleased the Trudeau Liberals made the promise to restore water protections, we must also be aware that the Energy Framework Initiative – meaning the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Fuels Association, and the Canadian Gas Association – presumably are lobbying hard to maintain the gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

The Globe and Mail notes, “Companies or industry groups, among scores registered to lobby on the review of environmental assessments, include Shell Canada, the Canadian Electricity Association, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Ontario Power Generation Inc., and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.”

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to protect lakes and rivers by reviewing the legislative changes made by the Harper government, restoring the lost protections for freshwater, and implementing strict safeguards for water within the framework of the United Nations-recognized right to water. We intend to participate in the upcoming federal consultation process and demand the relisting of all rivers and waterways.

To see the short list of lakes and rivers currently protected, please click here.

Further reading
Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act impacts First Nations Treaty rights and paves the way for more pipelines (October 30, 2012)