Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline gets green light from Joint Review Panel

Environmental groups vow to keep fighting $7.9-billion project

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      The federal panel reviewing the potential environmental impact of Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project has issued its decision, and green groups are loudly voicing their disagreement.

      In Calgary, the Joint Review Panel today (December 19) recommended that the federal government approve the $7.9-billion project, which would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands across British Columbia to Asia, subject to 209 conditions.

      "The environmental, societal, and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant. Through our conditions we require Northern Gateway to implement appropriate and effective spill prevention measures and spill response capabilities, so that the likelihood and consequences of a large spill would be minimized," the panel's report states.

      The Northern Gateway project would see twin pipelines carry 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen and 193,000 barrels of condensate per day between Bruderheim, Alberta, and Kitimat, B.C., where the oil would be loaded onto 220 tankers per year.

      Map of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route.
      Joint Review Panel

      However, First Nations are promising legal challenges and activists are threatening direct action if the Conservative government approves the project.

      Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner for ForestEthics Advocacy, asserted the panel's decision shows "oil interests trumped science, facts, and the powerful opposition presented to the JRP".

      "Overwhelmingly in the process, Enbridge proved that it does not have the competence to build Northern Gateway safely over our wild salmon watersheds, nor that the company, provincial or federal governments are prepared to handle oil spills on our coast," Skuce said in a news release. 

      Earlier this week, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation released a report criticizing "scientifically flawed studies and cursory reviews" by Enbridge of the project's potential impact on salmon.

      “Salmon, and the ecological and human communities that they support, are the very soul of British Columbia and the lifeblood of our coastal ecosystem. The decision to approve Northern Gateway will ultimately come with irreparable costs in the long term. This pipeline should never be built,” Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast, said in response to the panel's decision, in a release.

      The Wilderness Committee noted that the project faces opposition from First Nations and municipalities across B.C. Its policy director, Gwen Barlee, called the decision "extremely disappointing".

      “Our federal government and industry have repeatedly assured us that they can mitigate the project’s risks and impacts, but ‘world-class’ slogans won’t protect our coast when the first tanker hits a rock,” Barlee said in a release. “The panel may have said this high risk project should proceed, but the people in BC will make the final decision – and they will put a healthy coast and a stable climate over oil profits every time.”

      Ecojustice staff lawyer Barry Robinson maintained that the panel's decision "does not mean the pipeline is approved or will even be built". The organization's lawyers represented ForestEthics, Raincoast, and the Living Oceans Society during the review process.

      “We submitted hundreds of pages of scientific evidence on behalf of our clients that lead to one emphatic conclusion: The Northern Gateway pipeline is an unsafe, unsustainable and unnecessary project, and it does not serve the national interest of this country,” Robinson said in a release.

      In the same release, Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society, stated: "There remain important issues that are simply not adequately addressed, especially concerning marine operations. Enbridge closed its case insisting that conventional spill response technology will work on unconventional oil, when it is clear that it will not in many cases."

      Map of the proposed Kitimat terminal and possible tanker routes.
      Joint Review Panel

      The democratic reform group Leadnow has posted a new online petition calling on Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "say no this reckless project once and for all".

      Along with TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Energy East proposals, and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain twinning plans, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway would enable oil companies to expand production in the Alberta tar sands.


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      Dec 19, 2013 at 1:56pm

      Wow, what a surprise. I had no idea what side Harper - sorry, the panel - would come down on.


      Dec 19, 2013 at 2:17pm

      This is absolutely frightening. Genovali is right, a pipeline across beautiful British Columbia will come at irreparable costs. It's time to stop including oil and fossil fuels as part of the future but to leave them behind in the past. What are they going to resort to next? Hydraulic fracking? Humanity before profit!

      Jack & Jane

      Dec 19, 2013 at 3:06pm


      Oil is Needed

      Dec 19, 2013 at 3:19pm

      Oil is needed for now to maintain our way of life. Until our scientists can come up with a more efficient way to convert sunlight into useable energy, oil is it. Therefore, we must be able to use every drop of oil to give our scientists the time needed to develop technologies that utilize every photon of sunlight that hits the earth.


      Dec 19, 2013 at 3:23pm

      Well Stevie, during the legal challenges and before pipeline construction starts you need to start building your prisons. You may even want to consider a Canadian 'Gitmo'

      Get Off The Oil

      Dec 19, 2013 at 3:58pm

      The amount of money spent trying to promote tar sands, pipelines, etc. could've easily been put to alternative energies. These a--holes need to pull their tiny little pea brains out of their butts and look forward, not backwards. idiots. The pipeline will not happen. Maybe Herr Harper needs to also understand that we won't take no for an answer. backatcha'!

      Alternatives now

      Dec 19, 2013 at 4:56pm

      This is beyond that which we, the majority, are willing to sit back and watch happen. Direct action now. We the opposed will organize and prevent this from happening. We must. Any way possible.

      Robert Harms

      Dec 19, 2013 at 7:16pm

      The greatest and most easily available force in stopping the exploitation of oil sands is yours: stop flying in powered aircraft; stop driving your combustion automobiles; stop buying rubber boots, umbrellas and laptops; stop talking on your phones; stop putting your leftovers in re-useable containers; stop the drip of life-saving drugs into a cancer patient's body through the plastic hoses; stop buying coffee in bags and keeping it warm with plastic lids; stop the safe-keeping of foods on shelves in your grocers' markets; stop gaping at your computer screens; stop with your carpets and your furniture, stop yourself and your family from demanding the production of oil, and no one will build a single pipeline. There is no greater factor in this argument than you - the consumer of oil. It is you who is the engine of environmental destruction; it is you who vote for the continued production of oil and exploitation of our resources - everyday. If and when you are able to come to grips and deal with your contradictions, then we can have a meaningful conversation about ethics and the consequences of the extraction - not use - of oil . It is clear that consumers have no interest in facing their use of oil. Every day and all day long. Grow up. Turn it all off and you will win your battle. No one is stopping you except you.


      Dec 19, 2013 at 8:07pm

      This decision to approve the pipeline was made way before the Joint Review Panel even heard one submission. The Joint Review Panel hearings were a sham. Everybody knew it. This is no surprise. The next move will be to smooze Christy Clark to drop her 5 conditions and to trick the First Nations into coming on board. I suspect that the First Nations are smarter than that and I will support the First Nations in their fight. Who in their right mind would allow Enbridge to tear up B.C.'s last remaining wilderness so we can get rid of Canada's precious natural resource to China at fire sale prices? Why do we need Stephen Harper anyway. Get rid of him.

      Oil Sands Supporter

      Dec 19, 2013 at 9:06pm

      This project can be operated safely and the benefits greatly outweigh the low probability of an environmental incident. Everyone will benefit in Canada and the risks can be mitigated through good operating and maintenance practices. Opposition to the Project has been based on emotion and fear mongering supported by US inerests