The Government of British Columbia has formally rejected the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.
The proposal by Enbridge Inc. was made for the transport of bitumen (a form of extremely heavy crude oil) from Alberta’s oil sands to a terminal facility at Kitimat. From there, the product would be shipped to Asian markets via oil tankers.
In a written argument presented to the Northern Gateway Panel, a federal body tasked with conducting an environmental and regulatory review, the province states that “it cannot support the project as presented to the panel because Northern Gateway has been unable to address British Columbians' environmental concerns.”
“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake is quoted as saying in a May 31 media release. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”
He continues: “British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents. Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”
The province’s strongly worded rejection of the Enbridge proposal could make it difficult for the Northern Gateway Panel (also known as the Joint Review Panel) to give its approval for the project. Final arguments are scheduled for June 17.
The Panel will then produce a report outlining its recommendations regarding the pipeline and submit that document to the Governor in Council, which will then make a decision on whether the National Energy Board should issue a certificate that would allow the project to go ahead.
The government’s formal rejection of Northern Gateway may have caught Enbridge executives by surprise. A story published today (May 31) in the Calgary Herald ran with the headline, “Northern Gateway executive heartened at B.C. election result.” That article quoted Northern Gateway president John Carruthers expressing confidence that the company’s plans to manage environmental risks go “above and beyond” what is required.
“What we understood from the results of the election was that [British Columbians] want a strong economy, they want the jobs the strong economy provides, and they want the social services that the tax revenue from the strong economy can provide,” Carruthers told the Calgary Herald. “But they also want to make sure it isn't done at the expense of the environment…. Our response is that I think we are fully aligned with the residents of British Columbia.”
In the run up to the May 14 election, Premier Christy Clark issued five conditions that she said must be met for the approval of heavy oil pipeline projects in B.C. Those requirements were repeated in today’s media release. They are:
- Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Northern Gateway, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed
- World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments
- World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines
- Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project
- British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.
As a twin pipeline, Northern Gateway would have a capacity to move 525,000 barrels of oil per day to B.C.’s coast while transporting hydrocarbon natural gas condensate to the oil sands in Alberta.
The B.C. government’s full submission to the Northern Gateway Panel can be read here.