VICTORIA - Federal Green party Leader Elizabeth May says Ottawa is using Canadian taxpayers money to subsidize oil pipeline environmental studies that should have been fully explored by Enbridge (TSX:ENB), the Calgary-based company proposing to build the $6-billion Northern Gateway oil project.

But the federal government said Wednesday the $120 million earmarked to conduct oil tanker safety studies on Canada's coastlines was announced last March in Vancouver by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver against a backdrop of tankers and shipping vessels in Burrard Inlet.

May claimed leaked federal documents reveal the federal government has embarked on two major studies worth at least $120 million that are "greasing the wheels for Enbridge," but Oliver issued a statement Wednesday saying he had nothing to hide.

"Work on tanker safety is critical to ensure we have world-class marine safety on Canada's coastlines," said Oliver's statement. "While the Green party and the New Democratic Party oppose resource development projects before the science is in, our government will not make decisions until an independent, scientific review determines they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment."

At a news conference in Victoria, May said the federal documents reveal Ottawa is undertaking environmental initiatives that should have been originally conducted by Enbridge.

She said the Harper government is spending at least $78 million on marine spill studies specifically connected to bitumen, the molasses-like crude that will be shipped in the pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia. May also said the documents reveal Ottawa is spending $42 million to study ways to improve weather forecasting in the northern B.C. coastal regions that will be used by oil tankers if the project is approved by the federal Joint Review Panel.

"Some of this money is going to backfill for Enbridge and do the homework it should have done before it went to the Joint Review Panel," said May. "Other money is operational and represents an investment in better weather forecasting for supertanker routes that don't exist yet. We're building an infrastructure as though the project is already approved."

The Joint Review Panel's report on the project proposal is scheduled for public release by the end of this year.

Last March, Oliver said he was announcing a series of measures to improve oil tanker safety off Canadian coasts, including administrative penalties for polluters and mandatory marine response plans for oil terminal operators.

Oliver also announced expanded research on non-conventional petroleum products like diluted bitumen, and more ports, starting with Kitimat, being designated for traffic-control measures.

"I'm personally quite shocked by the extent of the spending when we see science cut in so many areas," May said. "If the (Northern Gateway) project were approved, I'd have no problem whatsoever, in fact it would be imperative that we put infrastructure into better weather forecasting for supertanker routes."

A Green party spokesman said following the news conference that Oliver's March announcement did not include details that the government's weather forecasting initiative will focus on the Kitimat area where the oil tankers propose to start their trips to Asia.

Andrew Weaver, B.C.'s lone provincially-elected Green party member, urged B.C.'s Liberal government to stick to its current decision to reject Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal because it does not meet to province's five conditions for environmental approval, especially the second condition which calls for world-class response to marine oil spills.

Weaver, a climate scientist, said the Enbridge bid does not include a response plan to spills of bitumen-based oil product. He said Ottawa now is doing that work for them.

"This is another example of federal money being used to essentially subsidize industry, and industry's inability to actually provide effective response to marine dilbit (bitumen) oil spills because the tools don't exist," he said.

The proposed Northern Gateway project would see a 1,200-kilometre pipeline carrying 550,000 barrels of heavy oil a day from Bruderheim, near Edmonton, to a tanker port in Kitimat, on the north coast of B.C., for shipment to the lucrative markets of Asia. A twin line would carry condensate, for diluting heavy bitumen, east to Alberta.

The development would allow land-locked Alberta to expand its customer base beyond the United States, where the industry argues it is forced to sell oil for up to $8 less per barrel because it has no competing buyers.

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  • Syncrude's Mildred Lake Upgrader, part of The Syncrude Project complex for oil sands processing, is pictured Monday, March 8, 2006 in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a lake reclaimed from an old mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on October 22, 2009.

  • A disused mining machine on display in front of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta on October 22, 2009.

  • Mountains of sulphur, a waste byproduct of mining, stand at a Syncrude Canada Ltd. mining site near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.

  • The Suncor oilsands operation uses trucks that are 3 stories tall, weigh one million pounds, and cost 7 million dollars each.

  • Oil sits on the surface at a Suncor Energy Inc. oilsands mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. Photographer:

  • An aerial view of a tailings pond at the Suncor oil sands mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta in 2009.

  • Mining trucks carry loads of oil laden sand at the Albian Sands oils sands project in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Friday, August 5, 2005

  • A large oil refinery along the Athabasca River in Alberta's Oilsands. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

  • Oils mixes with water at a tailings pond at a Suncor Energy Inc. oil sands mining operation near Fort McMurray in 2013.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

  • Oil is seen at the ground's surface near Royal Dutch Shell Plc's Albian Sands mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.

  • In this Aug. 5, 2005 file photo, the Syncrude upgrader spreads out towards the horizon at the company's oil sands project in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • The Mildred Lake upgrader, on the grounds of The Syncrude Project in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada is pictured from the air Monday, March 6, 2006.

  • This Tuesday, July 10, 2012 aerial photo shows a Nexen oil sands facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • The Syncrude extraction facility in the northern Alberta oil sand fields is reflected in the pool of water being recycled for re-use.

  • A night view of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta Province, Canada on October 22, 2009.

  • Aerial view of a lake and forests in the vicinity of oil sands extraction facilities near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on October 23, 2009.

  • Workers use heavy machinery in the tailings pond at the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta , Canada on October 25, 2009.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

  • A large oil refinery in Alberta's Oilsands project. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

  • Next: Alberta Oil Spills

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

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  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Company officials said the leak - at what it calls its Primrose operation - was caused by faulty machinery at one of the wells, affected an area of approximately 13.5 hectares and released as much as 3,200 litres of bitumen each day.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Preliminary tallies put the death toll from the leak at 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians. Dozen were rescued and taken to an Edmonton centre for rehabilitation.

  • CFB Cold Lake

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  • <em>Click through for other recent spill in Alberta</em>

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  • Plains Midstream Canada

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  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A photographer snaps a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A worker slows traffic while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A no swimming sign along the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the lake near Innisfail, Alta., Friday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

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  • Lake Wabamun

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  • Lake Wabamun

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  • Lake Wabamun

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  • Lake Wabamun

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