Canada's Northern Gateway Pipeline Rejected

Northern Gateway Pipeline map

This year on May 31st it was announced that British Columbian officials have rejected the current proposal for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. With studies from Simon Fraser University (SFU) conflicting with the reports from Enbridge and revealing very different numbers, it’s a good thing officials are paying attention.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline is a 5.5 billion dollar project that would comprise dual 1,172 kilometers pipelines buried at a depth of one meter in a 25 meter wide right of way. It would be one of the largest infrastructure projects between two provinces set to connect Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada. About 525,000 barrels of oil would be exported to the new Kitimat Marine Terminal and about 193,000 barrels of condensate imported, with both pipes being serviced by 10 electric pump stations.

According to a study lead by SFU’s Tom Gunton, director of the resource and environmental planning program and former deputy environment minister for Mike Harcourt's NDP provincial government, the probability of an oil spill--if this project proceeds as currently planned--is much higher than the corporation estimates. The study claims there is a 90% chance of an oil spill with Enbridge’s current plan and that the likelihood of an oil spill at the tanker terminal (to be built in Kitimat) is possible every 15 to 40 years as opposed to the company’s estimated 250 years. These drastic differences and this provoking study together have lead to much debate.

The B.C. government has officially expressed opposition to the pipeline project as it currently stands. Whether this decision was influenced by the SFU study is not clear. The province made this announcement only days ago in its formal written submission to the Pipeline Joint Review Panel, expressing its concerns over certain conditions not being adequately met. "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," said Environment Minister Terry Lake. "Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings."

B.C. officials put forth five environmental conditions that must be met before any sort of approval can be granted to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project:

  1. Environmental review needs to be passed.
  2. World-leading marine oil spill prevention, response.
  3. World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response.
  4. First Nations opportunities, treaty rights respected.
  5. Fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits for B.C.

Without proof of these conditions being met, especially in the form of an oil spill prevention and response plan from Enbridge, B.C. has opposed the project, reiterating these five conditions to the corporation.

Enbridge executive vice president, Janet Holder, has also said in a news release that these conditions cannot yet be fully met until the end of the review panel process, although the company is working hard to meet them and gain the confidence of government officials.

The president of Enbridge, John Carruthers simply referred B.C.’s announcement as all “part of the process” and that if “there's a positive decision from the Joint Review Panel in December, we still need to meet with the public, meet with the province of B.C. and continue to dialogue with them, engage with them through the further development process, through construction and through operations."

With this much of a debate and inconsistent numbers being tossed up for review regarding the Pipeline proposal, now is the time to ask the tough questions and take a stance to protect our environment before any damage can be done.


Learn more about the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project proposal:

B.C. officially opposes Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, CBC News

Enbridge spill risk more than 90%, SFU report says, CBC News


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- Written by Ines de S.