Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said he doubts Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline will ever go ahead despite the project receiving the federal government’s approval earlier today.
“The fact remains there is no resource development project in Canada’s history that has seen such widespread opposition from communities, residents and First Nations,” Bachrach said. “It really seems unrealistic that this pipeline will ever be constructed.”
Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said the approval is another step in the process and added Enbridge must demonstrate to the National Energy Board how it will meet the required 209 conditions before the project goes ahead. Rickford also noted that consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under the conditions.
“The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.” He said in a statement released this afternoon.
In December, the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project recommended approval of the pipeline, laying out the conditions that must first be met.
One hundred and two of those terms are required before construction can begin.
After 18 months of submissions from experts and the public, the panel concluded the benefits of a twin pipeline from northern Alberta to a proposed tanker facility at Kitimat outweigh the risks.
“The environmental, societal and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant,” the panel concluded in its report. “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 said there would be significant effects on some populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bear, and uncertainty remains over the effectiveness of Enbridge’s plans to minimize the disruption the pipeline would cause.
“It is our view that, after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low,” the report stated.
Conditions include protection plans for whales and other marine mammals, measures to protect caribou and other land animals and development of methods to track and deal with diluted bitumen spills.
The decision on the controversial project has some local politicians shaking their heads.
“I am really disappointed with the result,”said Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson. “I think if the Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberals hadn’t signed over our authority on the environmental process to the federal government, we would have seen something different. That is the most disappointing aspect– that the B.C. Liberals voluntarily gave up our jurisdiction on this issue.”
“To call this a good process is a joke. This has been a sham almost from day one.” said Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen. “Virtually 99 per cent of those people who testified or wrote to the JRP rejected this project and still the energy board gave it a green light which was something that Mr. Harper said he wanted more than three years ago.”
The proposed $6.5 billion Northern Gateway twin pipeline will transport diluted bitumen 1,200 kilometres from northern Alberta through northern B.C. to Kitimat. The larger, westbound pipeline will carry up to 525,000 barrels of oil per day that will be loaded onto tankers and shipped to Asia.