Canadian environment groups, natives challenge Enbridge pipeline

VANCOUVER, July 11 Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:50pm EDT

VANCOUVER, July 11 (Reuters) - A coalition of environmental groups launched a second legal challenge against Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline on Friday, asking a Canadian court to quash federal approval that they say was based on a flawed report.

The same group filed a lawsuit in January over a preliminary approval by the Joint Review Panel, which found the C$7.9 billion ($7.36 billion) project posed little risk to the environment provided Enbridge complied with 209 conditions.

The Canadian government green lighted the controversial pipeline last month. The group's suit, filed in the Federal Court of Appeals, said approval must be set aside until a new environmental assessment can be produced.

"We're challenging a flawed decision based on flawed report," Barry Robinson, a lawyer for Ecojustice, said in a statement. Ecojustice is acting on behalf of ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The coalition is also questioning the government's failure to provide reasons for its approval order.

The group previously said the regulatory panel did not adequately consider the effects of Northern Gateway on wildlife and that its conclusions were based on insufficient evidence.

The Gitxaala First Nation, a coastal native community that lives along the tanker route for the project, also filed a lawsuit on Friday, citing infringements on their Aboriginal rights and title, along with a lack of proper consultation.

Ivan Giesbrecht, a spokesman for the project, said he could not comment directly on the legal actions until the company has a chance to review them, but said Enbridge remains committed to working with impacted communities.

"We know we have a lot more work to do and are committed to building on the progress we've made in the months ahead," he said.

While litigation could hold up development for years, experts say it is unlikely to kill the project, which would have the capacity to ship 525,000 barrels of oil sands crude per day.

Starting near Edmonton, Alberta, Northern Gateway would run 1,177 km (730 miles) - mostly through the wilderness of northern British Columbia - to Kitimat, a deepwater port on the Pacific Coast. ($1 = 1.0731 Canadian Dollars) (Reporting by Julie Gordon. Editing by Andre Grenon)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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