More than 100 scientists have penned a letter to the federal government urging them to reject the draft environmental assessment on the Pacific NorthWest LNG project near Lelu Island.
They claim the report misrepresents the importance of the project area to fish populations, especially salmon.
The group also criticizes the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) for "assuming lack of information equates to a lack of risks," disregarding science that was not funded by the proponent, inadequately considering cumulative effects and giving too much consideration to a mitigation plan that was not fully developed.
For these reasons, described in detail in the letter, the group claims the CEAA carried out a flawed assessment of the environmental risks of the proposal.
The plant reperents nearly $36 billion in total investment, making it potentially the largest foreign direct investment in Canadian history.
The 130 scientists who signed the letter are from a variety of North American Universities, including Simon Fraser University (SFU), the University of British Columbia, University of Washington and others.
"This letter is not about being for or against LNG, the letter is about scientific integrity in decision-making," Dr. Jonathan Moore, Chair of Coastal Science and Management at SFU said in a release.
"While our assessment finds that the CEAA draft report is scientifically flawed, the greater body of science also demonstrates that protection of the Lelu Island/Flora Bank area would benefit the second-largest salmon producing watershed in Canada," the letter states.
Since August 25, 2015, a protest camp has been set up on Lelu Island on the Skeena Estuary where the proposed project would be built. Members of the camp dispute calling it a protest, instead asserting that they're simply occupying the territory of the Gutwilgyoots Tribe to practice their aboriginal rights and title.
Camp members consist of a mixture of Lax K'walaams, Gitga'ata (Hartley Bay), Gitxaala (Kitkatla), Kitsunkalum, Kitselas Tsimshian bands, also members of the Haida, Nisga'a and Gitzsan First Nations.
"This project would affect us all," a member of the camp who did not wish to be identified told the Alaska Highway News.
Spencer Sproule, senior advisor of corporate affairs for Pacific NorthWest, said the company's three-year environmental assessment was thorough, "consisting of hundreds of thousands of employee and contractor hours to get to where we are today.
"Independent scientists from the Government of Canada, after asking for follow-up studies, modelling and baseline information have now agreed with our conclusion—that our project can be built without significantly impacting fish or fish habitat as a result of our project," Sproule said in an emailed statement.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency did not respond to a request for comment before press time.