In responding to today’s decision, Enbridge Northern Gateway project leader Janet Holder acknowledged the company has more work to do.
“Our company understands that economic development and environmental protection must go hand in hand. That’s why Northern Gateway is designed for B.C., with world-leading safety standards on land and on water, such as 24/7 monitoring and new navigational equipment for the Douglas Channel,” she said, noting “more than 1,800 people” have benefited from training programs supported by the company.
“The Northern Gateway project team, Enbridge, and our funding partners will also continue the important work of building trust with Aboriginal communities along the proposed route. We have signed 26 equity partnerships with these communities so far, representing more than 60 per cent of the Aboriginal population along the proposed right-of-way. We need to do more and, in the days ahead, we look forward to building on our progress.”
As for the next steps, Holder said the project team will review the decision and continue to work toward meeting the 209 conditions set out by the Joint Review Panel.
“Our team and I will continue traveling throughout British Columbia and continue speaking with people in their communities because today is just one step in a long process towards building a safer, better pipeline,” she said.
Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen believes there is no way the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will ever see the light of day, despite approval from the federal government.
“This is likely going to the Supreme Court against First Nations who know their way around the Supreme Court … I think it will go to the Supreme Court and will likely be shot down there,” he said.
“I truly believe this pipeline will never be built. I think the resolve and the passion of the people of the northwest will overcome it … governments can grant permits, but only people can give permission.”
Noting he is concerned about the impact this decision could have on other energy projects in the region, Cullen said an NDP government would quickly work to reverse Cabinet’s decision.
“If we form government in 2015, we will put aside this decision. The shovels won’t be in the ground by then because the next step is court challenges,” he said.
“Almost 130 First Nation, virtually every municipality along the route, the province and numerous government associations have told the government ‘No’, yet the arrogance of this government thinks they can overcome that.
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said although the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline has received approval from the federal government, it certainly has not received the approval of the provincial government.
“Our position remains unchanged. Northern Gateway has a lot of work to do to meet the province’s five conditions. So far, they have only met the first one, which is successful completion of the environmental assessment process,” she said, noting the government has seen an increased acceptance of the five conditions by industry.
“We recognize the economic benefits of heavy oil pipelines, but they are not going to come at the expense of our environment.”
Meanwhile, a group of 31 First Nations announced they will be united in pursuing legal action to stop the project from proceeding. Included in that group is the Haida Nation, Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, and the Gitgaat, Gitxaala, Gitxsan, Haisla and Heiltsuk Nations.
“Today, we unequivocally reject the Harper Government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project and First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” read a statement from the group.
“We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
The Government of Canada has approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway, subject to the 209 conditions outlined by the Joint Review Panel.
The announcement came shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
“Today constitutes another step in the process. Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the NEB, how it will meet the 209 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments. In addition, consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits. 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,” read a statement from the government.
The decision was met with quick response from environmental groups in the province.
“Eighteen months of regulatory hearings made one thing clear: Northern Gateway is a risky and unnecessary project that does not serve the national interest of Canada or Canadians,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Barry Robinson on behalf of Living Oceans.
“We are deeply disappointed, but you need to look no further than the spate of legal challenges filed against this project to know that Cabinet’s approval is by no means a guarantee that this project will ever be built.”
The theme of approval not meaning the project will proceed was one repeated in statements from many groups.
““This isn’t over until tankers are filling up with Enbridge’s oil on the coast, and that is never going to happen – the people of BC have spoken and are steadfast against it,” said Ben West, Tar Sands campaign director for ForestEthics Advocacy.
“Prime Minister Harper will likely regret trying to push this politically toxic project on B.C. in the lead up to a close election.”
While environmental organizations were less than enthused by the decision, the BC Chamber of Commerce applauded approval of the project.
“The Northern Gateway project is a major economic win for B.C. and for Canada. We applaud the federal government for making the right decision for our province and our country today,” said John Winter, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.
“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. And that’s not just an Albertan problem – it’s a B.C. problem. 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.”
Look for more on this story as it becomes available.