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NEB wants ocean protection

The National Energy Board would require the creation of a marine mammal protection program for the Trans Mountain pipeline in a series of draft conditions it has laid out before it considers the project.

The focus of the review is to apply the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species at Risk Act to project-related marine shipping, the board says in the document.

The conditions mitigate potential risks to the environment and protect the public, it says.

Releasing these draft conditions and recommendations is not an indication of the board's forthcoming recommendation to the federal government to either approve or deny the project, it says.

The board, which has to have its final recommendations in by Feb. 22, also recommends a number of measures be taken to offset the increased underwater noise and potential risk posed by ship strikes of marine mammals including southern resident killer whales.

Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to the transportation minister, had said earlier the southern resident killer whale is a vital part of Canada's local marine ecosystem.

"The survival of this iconic species is a priority of our government and indeed a priority for all Canadians," he said.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the government's approval of the project in August, citing the energy board's failure to examine impacts on the ocean ecosystem, including B.C.'s endangered southern resident killer whales. It also found Canada failed to meaningfully consult with First Nations during the final phase of discussions.

The board is also looking to limit the number of whale watching boats and the amount of time they spend on the water.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, which purchased the pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion, ordered the energy board to review the project's marine shipping effects within 155 days.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Thursday the draft recommendations and conditions are an "important step towards meeting the reasonable timeline that we provided, and the type of progress that Canadians expect to see."



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