Hundreds of scientists and scholars have signed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that says the recent report on the Northern Gateway pipeline is so flawed, it's essentially useless.

The university professors, from both the natural and socials sciences, say the joint review panel (JRP) report has so many systemic errors and omissions that it can't be used to make decisions on whether the pipeline is beneficial to the public.

The 300 signatories from across Canada and around the world say the panel's recommendation to approve the proposed pipeline from the oilsands in Alberta to the north coast of B.C. was based on a "flawed analysis of the risks and benefits to B.C.'s environment and society."

"We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this report," says the letter.

The report approval, which was released in December, included 209 required conditions, including: 

  • Developing a marine mammal protection plan.
  • Researching heavy oil cleanup.
  • Conducting emergency response exercises.

The Harper government is expected to decide whether to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline sometime this month.

Kai Chan, a University of British Columbia associate professor who helped pen the letter, calls the report a failure.

"The consideration of how the benefits outweigh the costs and risks was really given almost no space and no logic. It's absolutely insufficient as a basis to make a decision as to whether the project is in the public interest," says Chan.

Among the concerns raised in the letter, the group says the report:

  • Failed to consider important impacts, such as the increased greenhouse gas emissions that could result from oilssands development and burning Northern Gateway oil products in Asia. 
  • Reached conclusions contradicting the government’s own scientific evidence, including risks to large whales and other marine species.
  • Unjustifiably dismissed the uncertain risks posed by diluted bitumen spills at sea as unimportant risks.
  • Relied on an oil spill response plan that is not yet developed
  • Relied on information from the proponent without external evaluation.
  • Failed "to provide an explanation of how it had reached its conclusions, especially the central one, that the project’s benefits justify its risks and costs."

"Given such flaws, the JRP report is indefensible as a basis to judge in favour of the project," the letter concludes.

With files from Robert Zimmerman