More than 200 health professionals from Canada and around the world are calling on the Trudeau government to conduct an independent health assessment of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, citing key health impacts of climate change that will be made worse by the C$9.3-billion megaproject.
The letter from health leaders who attended last month’s Global Climate and Health Forum in San Francisco “notes that the National Energy Board (NEB) process was flawed, resulting in an inadequate health impact assessment, and that Canada is wrong in choosing to build large new fossil fuel infrastructure that locks in carbon emissions for the next several decades with potentially profound impacts worldwide on human health,” write Tim K. Takaro, associate dean at the Simon Fraser University health sciences faculty and Jennifer Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, in a recent opinion piece for CBC.
“Some of the most severe impacts noted are death and illness from heat events, storms, wildfires, flooding, food shortages, and forced migration and related conflict,” they note.
The letter cites domestic health risks the NEB is failing to factor into its reassessment of the pipeline, including the impact of a severe tanker spill close to the Vancouver shore under summer conditions that have recently included poor air quality and high temperatures. It “also stresses that the NEB did not adequately consider the potential health risks from benzene, a potent carcinogen which causes leukemia in children,” Takaro and Miller write, nor did it address the project’s health impact on Indigenous communities.
The NEB also disregards the project’s impact on the “global health crisis of climate change,” instead treating greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of “zero-sum economics—that is, the presumption that if the product is not shipped easily through this pipeline, it will get to market another way.” The two authors call that an “incredible omission”.
With taxpayers now the proud owner of a leaky, 65-year-old pipeline, the government “has a clear conflict of interest in judging any negative impacts of the project,” they add. “For this reason, the health impacts assessment for the pipeline must be completely independent.” That kind of review would be a first step toward creating “best practices consistent with our common vision of healthy people and a healthy planet”.