The federal Conservative government has approved Enbridge’s $7.9 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline project, despite widespread opposition in B.C. that includes the provincial government, First Nations, environmental organizations and residents of the intended oil tanker port of Kitimat.
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford signalled the government’s approval in a low-key statement Tuesday that endorsed the 209 conditions imposed by a federal review. Rickford noted that the proponent still needs to consult with aboriginal communities and secure provincial permits.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized it is in the national interest to open a new pipeline route to the Pacific Ocean to carry Alberta oil sands bitumen and break the Canadian oil industry’s dependence on U.S. markets.
The decision is being welcomed by Enbridge.
“Time and again, people have told us Northern Gateway is important to our future, but only if we do it right,” said Janet Holder, project leader for the Northern Gateway project, in a statement issued shortly after the decision came down.
“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,” she said. “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.”
A joint press release from 24 individual bands, five tribal councils, plus the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, states they will “will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.”
Holder said Enbridge will review the federal government’s decision, while continuing working towards meeting the 209 conditions set out by the Joint Review Panel.
“We also look forward to working with the British Columbia government on the five conditions for support of oil pipelines,” Holder said.
Environment Minister Mary Polak said the province’s position has not changed and that Enbridge has met only one of the province’s five conditions, that being a favourable ruling from the Joint Review Panel.
“Northern Gateway has a lot of work to do,” Polak said.