Council Chapter Activist Eric Doherty joins legal case against NEB over Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion

Eric Doherty is a chapter activist for the Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby chapter. Along with other citizens and Forest Ethics Advocacy, he is taking the National Energy Board to court over being denied his right to speak out against the Kinder Morgan tar sands Pipeline expansion. In February Eric went to the National Energy Board website to apply to participate in the public consultation process for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project. The process was complex, seemingly designed to dissuade participants, but he went through all the steps and applied to comment on the need and economic feasibility of the Project. He wanted to speak to the panel in person, but the process for becoming an Intervenor seemed way too time consuming so he just applied to send a letter. He was turned down and denied even the simple right to send in a letter.

In Eric's own words: 

"I’m not generally a big fan of going to court over environmental issues, it can be a distraction from building the mass movement needed to make the bigger changes. But I recently signed on to a legal action to challenge the 2012 gutting of the National Energy Board (NEB) Act engineered by big oil. The changes mean hearings would be completed in an unreasonably short period of time, and would curtail both the public’s right to meaningfully participate and the timeline for public debate and mobilization.

“NEB hearings have lost their essential purpose.  If the public cannot be heard the public interest cannot be assessed,” said David Martin, our lawyer.

I am participating in this legal challenge coordinated by Forest Ethics Advocacy because I believe that the ‘public interest’, which the NEB is supposed to consider, has taken on new meaning given the present situation with global warming and ocean acidification. The evidence is overwhelming that very future of human civilization is at stake, and this message needs to be heard everywhere including in the courts.

I wanted to present  evidence that governments may well be forced to act decisively in the public interest with regards to carbon emissions, making projects such as petroleum pipelines economically unviable. But big oil’s power and economic viability is threatened by decisive action to reduce carbon emissions, and the wave of divestment from fossil fuels this would trigger, so they are seeking to silence us.

Research and experience shows that we no longer need to use large quantities of high carbon transportation fuels such as diesel and gasoline derived from oil sands bitumen. One example of my work in this area is the report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Wilderness Committee entitled Transportation Transformation: Building Complete Communities and a Zero-Emission Transportation System in BC which I initiated and co-authored. Efficient electric transportation, such as the trolley buses I ride in Vancouver, is ready for wide application now.

Going back to what we had before, a system of environmental and economic assessment that was never designed to deal with threats requiring transformative change, is not good enough. I see this action as one small but strategic step towards creating a regulatory system appropriate for our time and circumstances. This will take much more than legal action, we need a movement capable of mass mobilization of a wide variety of fronts."

Eric Doherty represents the Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby Chapter on the GetOnBoard BC transit coalition. His Council of Canadians video on sustainable transportation is available from