From: Reuters
Published January 14, 2008 04:59 PM

Green groups sue Ottawa over refinery assessment

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Environmental groups are suing the Canadian government and Irving Oil Ltd, alleging the federal environmental assessment planned for a proposed C$7 billion ($6.9 billion) refinery in New Brunswick is too limited, their legal defense fund said on Monday.

The suit takes to task Environment Minister John Baird's decision to limit the federal review of the project in Saint John, New Brunswick, to the wharf and leave environmental assessment of the refinery itself to provincial authorities.

Ecojustice, formerly the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, launched the action on behalf of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and Friends of the Earth Canada. It also names Canada's Fisheries and Transport ministers.

"The law is clear; the federal government must conduct an assessment of the entire project in order to evaluate the impact this refinery will have on the health of the region's residents and the environment," Ecojustice lawyer Justin Duncan said in a statement.

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In November, Baird ruled that the New Brunswick government has the authority to conduct the environmental impact assessment of the planned refinery.

Ecojustice said the province has a weaker environmental assessment law and is a big backer of the project.

Irving, which already runs a 300,000 barrel a day refinery in the Saint John area, has proposed a second one of the same size to serve the U.S. Northeast and Atlantic Canada markets.

The federal court is expected to hear the case by mid-2008, the environmental groups said.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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