Northwestern political leaders weren’t surprised by the federal government’s decision to effectively end any chance of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline ever going ahead.
“Of course, from our plebiscite in 2014, having a majority of the community say they were not supportive of the project, we support the decision by the federal government,” said Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth in referring to a community vote taken on the project.
The federal decision amounted to a directive to the National Energy Board to dismiss Enbridge’s Northern Gateway application.
“It has become clear that this project is not in the best interest of the local affected communities, including indigenous peoples,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in announcing the decision Nov. 29.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline, and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic.”
The 1,177 kilometre twin pipeline, owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, was proposed in 2006, and would take diluted bitumen from Bruderheim, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C., and then send natural gas condensate from the coast back to Alberta, with a price tag of $7.9 billion CDN.
The project was approved by the former Conservative-led federal government in 2014, and was subject to 209 conditions.
That approval was overturned by the Federal Court earlier this year in June, after finding that indigenous groups along the pipeline’s route had not been properly consulted, with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr saying that the government would not be appealing the court’s decision.
The federal government also announced its intention to pass legislation next year to ban crude-carrying oil tankers from the North Coast.
The ban would prevent super-tankers from transporting bitumen to overseas markets, meaning there is no way bitumen shipped through Northern Gateway would get out of the country via the Douglas Channel.
Northern Gateway president John Carruthers released a statement saying that the proponents were disappointed by the rejection.
“We had hoped that the government would fulfill its constitutional and legal obligations and engage in meaningful and thorough Crown consultation on our project as recommended by the Federal Court of Appeal,” he wrote.
“Although we are saddened by this decision and while it may not be the news we had hoped for, we are very proud of the strong partnerships we have formed with indigenous communities and stakeholders and believe our model of engagement, inclusion, equity ownership and governance should be embraced by large scale energy projects.”
The pipeline has been a contentious project since it was announced, with vocal disapproval from aboriginal communities along the proposed right of way.
The marine terminal would be located on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, who have also vehemently opposed the project.
“This is a victory not just for the Haisla Nation but for all of British Columbia. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the other Aboriginal Nations who challenged this project, to the citizens of Kitimat who voted in a plebiscite to say 'no' to Northern Gateway, and to all those many British Columbians who stood with us in this struggle to protect a truly unique and pristine ecosystem,” said Crystal Smith, acting chief councillor.
After the federal decision was announced, Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen told reporters he’ll examine any tanker ban legislation carefully.
“Mr. Trudeau mentioned that this would be in law. The devil is always in the detail in these things,” he said.
Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communications for the Port of Prince Rupert, also commented on the decision.
“The Port of Prince Rupert shares the federal government’s goal of increasing marine safety and heightening environmental protection. Over 3,300 full time employees of port-related industry live and work in northern B.C., and we know how important marine environments are for our communities, First Nations and other industries. We all have a role to play in making the West Coast even safer for marine transportation,” he said in a statement.