|Last week, the Government of Canada approved construction of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would ship Alberta oil sands through B.C. to export terminals in Kitimat.
Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford said the approval is conditional upon the project satisfying the 209 conditions put forward by the federal review panel. Enbridge president John Carruthers has expressed confidence that the conditions can be met; he says the pipeline can be built safely and the company is prepared to undertake additional consultation work with First Nations communities along the pipeline route to satisfy the panel’s conditions.
The B.C. government has said the approval means Northern Gateway has met one of the province’sfive conditions but that more work must be done to meet the other four. If Enbridge fails to meet the conditions, the provincial government can withhold construction and operation permits (required by provincial legislation). Officials are still working with Ottawa around promised changes to marine oil cleanup and pipeline safety, however, the provincial government has not made clear whether those measures will be enough to meet B.C.’s demands for “world-leading” safety protocols.
Both the B.C. NDP and BC Greens are calling on Premier Christy Clark to reject Northern Gateway outright, suggesting the environmental and community risks far outweigh any potential economic benefits B.C. may receive.
The BC Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the federal government’s approval of the project.
“The Northern Gateway project is a major economic win for B.C. and for Canada,” said John Winter, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud the federal government for making the right decision for our province and our country today.”
Winter emphasized that the project will create jobs, boost GDP and generate tax revenue for B.C., while enabling Canadian oil producers critical access to Asian markets.
“Oil is a major source of Canada’s resource wealth, but with virtually no pipeline capacity to the West Coast, Canada’s producers are stuck selling oil at depressed prices to the U.S. – sometimes $30 a barrel below world prices,” Winter said.
“And that’s not just an Albertan problem – it’s a B.C. problem,” he added. “As the federal government loses billions of dollars in lost taxes, we’re forfeiting B.C.’s share of that wealth through reduced federal funding programs.
Winter commended both Enbridge and the federal government for their efforts to meet B.C.’s five conditions for pipelines. He urged the B.C. government to lose no time in clarifying its five conditions and the path that would get projects such as Northern Gateway to ‘yes’.
“We appreciate the significant efforts that Enbridge has made towards meeting the first condition of a successful environmental review process, as well as the federal government’s efforts to work with industry to meet the conditions around world-class marine and land spill response,” he said.
“We urge continued momentum on the remaining conditions and we call on the Province to provide further clarity as to what success of the five conditions looks like, as we work collectively towards making this project a reality.”