Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Panel gives OK to oilsands bitumen pipeline

Environmental groups express their concern

  • Print

CALGARY -- A review panel has recommended that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast go ahead.

But the panel has attached 209 conditions, which cover everything from protecting caribou habitat to research into how the oil would behave in a marine environment.

The controversial proposal has pitted Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) against environmental groups and several First Nations, who have raised concerns about potential oil spills on land or in the water off the B.C. coast. The panel says any environmental effects can be mitigated effectively if its conditions are met.

Supporters say the pipeline is critical if Alberta is to get its oil to emerging markets in Asia. The panel's report says opening up that market is important to the Canadian economy and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The panel did suggest Enbridge must be able to prove it would have the financial resources immediately available to respond to any cleanup of a spill or other damage.

"Northern Gateway must file with the (National Energy Board) for approval, at least nine months prior to applying for leave to open, a financial assurances plan... capable of covering the costs of liabilities for... cleanup, remediation and other damages caused by the project during the operation phase," the report says.

'I think the case is very clear that there is a real risk to the environment, the local economy and the social well-being of people who live in this region'

-- David Miller of the World Wildlife Fund

The final decision rests with the federal government, which has roughly six months to respond.

The cost of the pipeline appears to have skyrocketed. It had been pegged at more than $6 billion, but the report released Thursday used a $7.9-billion price tag, which includes pre-development costs and marine navigation enhancements.

Reaction from opponents was swift.

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation said political and corporate agendas won out over the interests of the public. And David Miller of the World Wildlife Fund questioned how the panel could acknowledge the environmental risks, but still support the pipeline.

"I think the case is very clear that there is a real risk to the environment, the local economy and the social well-being of people who live in this region," Miller said. "The (joint review panel) agrees with that yet it's full steam ahead.

"I think that decision is very unwise."

Miller suggested it's still important for people to voice their concerns.

"It's in the political arena now and it's up to people to continue to speak up. Our First Nations friends have legal rights as well, and I'm quite certain that coastal First Nations and others will be looking to ensure that their legal rights are respected."

If approved by the federal government, the pipeline will probably be just the first to put billions of dollars into the coffers of Alberta, Ottawa and other provincial governments -- not to mention the bank accounts of Enbridge and the international companies with a stake in the project.

The pipeline faced an uphill battle in B.C. where the environmental movement was bolstered by a decades-old "War in the Woods" against old-growth logging.

Enbridge and the oilpatch drastically underestimated the power of Green Corp., the older, wiser and better-funded modern version of the tie-dyed denizens who were arrested trying to save trees in the 1990s. Flush with cash from green philanthropists largely from south of the border, groups such as Forest Ethics Advocacy, the Dogwood Initiative and Rising Tides mounted a relentless campaign in Canada and abroad.

Growing concern over climate change has been a factor.

Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects -- Keystone XL to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 through Ontario and Quebec, and Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain line to Metro Vancouver -- mean production in the Alberta oilsands could triple by 2035, also increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

But protests in B.C. have been more of the grassroots variety.

There are also concerns the heavy, molasses-like diluted bitumen coming from the oilsands is more corrosive and difficult to clean up in the event of a spill.

But perhaps the toughest hurdle for the project has been the simmering tension between B.C. First Nations and the federal government.

Unlike the rest of Canada, most First Nations in the westernmost province never signed treaties with the Crown. Decades of treaty negotiations have largely gone nowhere and aboriginal rights have been left to the courts.

Before Enbridge ever filed its application for the pipeline, Ottawa made the decision to let the joint review by the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency stand for its duty to consult with First Nations.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2013 B12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jim Flaherty remembered at visitation as irreplaceable

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google