Canada says whales no longer in danger as oil pipeline verdict looms

Canada says whales no longer in danger as oil pipeline verdict loomsCanada’s federal government is taking humpback whales off the “threatened” species list two months before the government is due to decide whether to approve Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would feed oil onto a tanker shipping through the mammal natural habitat.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, with advice from Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, has recommended that the British Columbia’s population of humpback whales be downgraded from "threatened" to "species of special concern."

The recommendation for the change to the Species at Risk Act was published in the Canada Gazette Saturday.

The move comes weeks before the due date for the government to decide whether to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the northern B.C. town of Kitimat for loading on tankers that would sail through the Douglas Channel, a breeding and feeding ground for humpback whales.

Environmental groups have argued against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline saying potential spills, increased noise and tanker collisions would pose a major risk to the whales. Similar concerns have been raised over the expansion of the Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMP) pipeline to Burnaby.

Enbridge's $5.5 billion Northern Gateway project includes two pipelines running 1,177 kilometres to carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to BC's north coast.

Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline would increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000.

Image by outdoorsman