3,500 protest against Northern Gateway; company still to go ahead

Date of publication: 
23 October 2012

Thousands of people jammed the front lawn of Canada’s British Columbian parliament on Monday to oppose Enbridge’s controversial $5.5-billion pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the country’s West Coast.

But the company behind the projected Northern Gateway duct had its own message for the crowd.

Enbridge vice president, Janet Holder, told CKNW News the company would go ahead with its plans despite opposition, taking every precaution to prevent an oil spill from happening.

The company estimates that opening up Asian markets to Canadian oil would boost Canada’s GDP by $270 billion over 30 years, and would generate $81 billion in direct and indirect revenues to the federal and provincial governments. Of that, B.C. would receive about $6 billion, while Ottawa would receive about $36 billion and Alberta $32 billion.

The controversial project consists of two pipelines: one transporting oil in a westerly direction from Bruderheim, Alta., to the port of Kitimat, B.C., from there it would be shipped to international markets in Asia and the northwestern United States; and the other pipeline would carry imported natural-gas condensate in the opposite direction. The condensate is a toxic mix of liquid hydrocarbons that forms during the extraction of natural gas and is used as a thinning agent to dilute and help transport heavy oils like bitumen.

The majority of the pipeline will be underground, with the exception of a few water crossings where it is deemed safer to run the pipes above water.

The project would also include the building of a new marine terminal in Kitimat.

Another province-wide protest is expected to happen Wednesday in B.C.’s legislative capital —Victoria— and at MLA offices in 55 communities.


Canada’s New Pipeline Woes

By Ian Austen, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/energy-environment/canadas-ne...

23 October 2012

OTTAWAAND you thought pipeline politics in the United States were treacherous. Rebuffed by Washington on bringing the Keystone XL pipeline down through the western United States, Canada now finds that its Plan B — to build a pipeline to its west coast for shipping to Asia — has become mired in domestic politics thick enough to rival the tarlike oil it hopes to sell.

Getting the oil to the Far East first requires building a $5.5 billion, 730-mile pipeline from landlocked Alberta over a series of mountains to the coast of northern British Columbia. About 220 tankers a year would then navigate some of Canada’s most scenic yet treacherous waters to complete the trip.

While opposition from environmentalists and some native groups was always expected, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project has unexpectedly united British Columbians who normally are on opposite sides. Mistakes by Enbridge, which is based in Canada, have further fueled the resistance. They included missteps at regulatory hearings and the handling of a recent pipeline spill in Michigan, which was sharply criticized by the American authorities.

To illustrate the depth of opposition in British Columbia, Christy Clark, the province’s premier, said that she was at a meeting over the summer in the affluent section of Vancouver.

“Someone got up and asked some very pointed questions about moving this very dangerous commodity up our coast,” she said. “The kid was going into grade six.”

Although Ms. Clark leads a pro-business, right-of-center party, she has not endorsed the pipeline.

“British Columbians are not happy with the idea that we’ll bear 100 percent of the risk without getting any of the benefits,” Ms. Clark said.

Her major condition for approval — that Alberta share its royalties from the oil sands with British Columbia — is seen as simply a way for her government to oppose the pipeline without directly objecting to energy projects. Alberta once led a long and heated constitutional battle to retain all of its natural resource revenue and it shows no signs of changing its mind about that issue. After public hearings, a federal review panel’s decision on the project is not likely until the end of next year. But a growing number of Canadians say it may already be doomed.

Kinder Morgan, an American pipeline company, has said that it plans to seek permission late next year to expand its existing pipeline from Alberta to near Vancouver, British Columbia’s largest city. But that plan has already gotten strong opposition, particularly from Vancouver.

In addition to the oil industry and the province of Alberta, which owns the oil sands, Enbridge counts the current Conservative federal government as an ally. It has strongly endorsed the project as a way for Canada to expand its economy by selling to buyers beyond the United States, long its only foreign energy customer.

Members of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper do not hold much back in criticizing opponents.

“They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources,” Joe Oliver, the natural resources minister said, in an unusual open letter to critics. “Finally, if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further.”

Those remarks and others seem to have backfired, prompting a debate about free speech and creating sympathy for pipeline opponents.

Enbridge has also fumbled its efforts to win over native groups. A 1997 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada recognized their title to some of the land now needed for the pipeline. The decision means that dissatisfied native groups can potentially block the pipeline through the courts.

Enbridge has offered native groups a 10 percent stake in the pipeline. But that has still left many of them unconvinced. And the company’s efforts to win them over have sometimes had the opposite effect.

In a regulatory filing, Enbridge described an encounter one of its employees had earlier this year at a hearing in Burns Lake, British Columbia. “A Wet’suweten Elder blew a myriad of tiny feathers over a Northern Gateway representative in attendance.”

The company said the “feather incident” was a warning that it was breaking traditional native laws against trespassing, an offense it understood to be “punishable by death.”

Enbridge’s analysis was backward, however. The eagle down ceremony, as it is properly known, is a peace offering, not a death threat.

“It’s the highest honor you can ever have,” said Art Sterritt, the executive director of Coastal First Nations, a coalition of native groups. “For them to get frightened by that is the absolute height of ignorance.”