Federal gov't approves Northern Gateway pipeline
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, June 17, 2014 5:09PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 17, 2014 9:49PM EDT
The federal government has conditionally approved the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project between Alberta and British Columbia’s coast.
Before the 1,177-kilometre twin pipeline can be built, Enbridge Inc. has to meet 209 conditions set out by a joint federal review panel back in December.
Those conditions include consultations with aboriginal communities in B.C., and regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments, Minister of National Resources Greg Rickford said in a statement.
“The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with aboriginal groups and local communities along the route," he said Tuesday.
Opposition parties, along with environmental and First Nations groups, are vowing to do everything in their powers to block the project.
The New Democrats immediately denounced the pipeline approval, saying it proves that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will do anything to push his “big oil agenda.”
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said an NDP government would immediately set aside the pipeline project after the 2015 election. He said Northern Gateway will be a “big ballot issue” in B.C.
“It’s an environmentally dangerous activity that could compromise the major economy of the whole province,” Mulcair said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also said the pipeline “will not be built” if he becomes the next prime minister.
He accused the Conservative government of “blindly” supporting the Northern Gateway project and acting like a “cheerleader” instead of a referee throughout the approval process.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said that, if built, the pipeline would spell out disaster for First Nations groups whose land is affected by the project, the B.C. fishery and the environment.
Because the proposed pipeline route would go through ecologically fragile, uninhabited areas, a spill would be very difficult to reach and clean up, May said.
Environmental groups issued statements Tuesday saying the Northern Gateway approval “rejects science” and ignores concerns from First Nations and the B.C. government.
“Despite cabinet’s approval, the pipeline will not be built,” Tim Gray, of Environmental Defence, said. “These conditions cannot be met -- an approval with conditions is as good as a no.”
Talk of legal action
Several First Nations and environmental groups have already filed legal challenges, which include applications for a judicial review of the approval process.
The Gitxaala and Coastal First Nations have already said they are preparing lawsuits over the pipeline project.
A statement signed Tuesday by the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, along with 28 individual bands, said legal action against the project will be “vigorously” pursued.
"This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories," the statement said.
Northern Gateway would carry bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to the B.C. coastal town of Kitimat, to be shipped overseas.
The Harper government has long argued that Northern Gateway, as well as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the U.S., are crucial to the development of Canada’s natural resources sector and the overall economy.
However, the B.C. government has said that Northern Gateway still doesn’t meet the five conditions for approval set out by the province.
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said Tuesday that the project has so far only met one condition: passing the federal environmental review process.
Other conditions include having a “world leading” marine and land oil spill response, satisfying aboriginal and treaty legal rights and making sure that B.C. receives its “fair share” of the project’s economic benefits.
“There is still much work to be done if a Northern Gateway pipeline is ever to be built in British Columbia,” Polak said.
Janet Holder, Enbridge's vice-president for western access, said the company believes it can meet the Northern Gateway conditions.
Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Dave Hancock said Ottawa’s decision on the pipeline is “a step forward in accessing new markets for Canada’s energy resources.
“New markets for our products will create and support more jobs, and generate increased revenue to help pay for vital public services like quality health care and education for all Canadians,” he said in a statement.
With files from The Canadian Press