If you want to get approval for a huge project with many risks and serious associated problems, one strategy is to get decision-makers to split up the question into tiny pieces. Forbid the people on one team from considering the issues another team is looking at. That way, you can prevent the consideration of interactions between effects and cumulative impacts.
This seems to be what Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) does for pipelines. For instance, they have hearings upcoming in Toronto related to the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline. Currently, it carries conventional crude oil from east to west. The company wants to reverse the flow so it can carry diluted bitumen from the oil sands from west to east.
In these hearings, the NEB is only allowed to consider the direct effects and risks from the pipeline right here in Toronto. They are explicitly not going to consider the effects ‘upstream’ from oil sands extraction and processing. Likewise, the climate change damage ‘downstream’ cannot be considered.
The fact is, we need to be phasing out fossil fuels – not building infrastructure to facilitate their use into future decades. We’re past the point where building additional fossil fuel infrastructure makes sense, but the NEB isn’t allowed to consider the reasons for that.