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Industry looking forward to Northern Gateway Pipeline challenges

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The conditionally approved Northern Gateway Pipeline project may present construction and engineering challenges, but it's a challenge filled with employment opportunities.

The conditionally approved Northern Gateway Pipeline project may present construction and engineering challenges, but it's a challenge filled with employment opportunities.

That’s the message from some construction industry leaders.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the engineers of Canada and B.C. can address the environment and safety issues,” said Keith Sashaw, CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies - B.C.

On June 17, the federal government granted approval for the proposed $7 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline project conditional upon the proponent meeting the 209 conditions recommended by a federal review panel in December.

If the project moves forward, contractors could build 1,177 kilometres of dual pipeline from near Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat on the northern coast of B.C.

Sashaw said he isn’t fazed by the challenges that lie ahead for the project, which involves several tunnels and building over mountainous terrain.

He noted that the province boasts some of the best engineers in the world.

The westbound pipeline is expected to carry more than 500,000 barrels of bitumen and refined synthetic oil daily.

The eastbound pipeline would carry nearly 200,000 barrels of natural gas condensate.

Sashaw said that the increased construction activity is always good for the engineering community.

Rob Kinsey is the western Canadian representative for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.

He said the pipeline is a huge opportunity for pipe related fields, which will do much of the welding work on the project.

Kinsey said the terrain is rugged, but nothing pipeline workers haven’t dealt with before and he believes they are up to the challenge.

He said projects like this Enbridge pipeline illustrate why his organization and others have been adamant about investing in training infrastructure to meet labour demands.

In Edmonton alone, they’ve spent more than $2 million upgrading welders and journeymen.

He said they are already training Kitimat locals in trades.

Kinsey said this will not only provide labour for the project, but give youth in the area a lifelong career that can pay off even after the project is complete.

“We want these young people to be the workforce of the future or we are going to find ourselves very tight,” he said.

The high-profile media attention for the pipeline is helping with recruitment.

Kinsey said that after the story broke he received more than a dozen resumé from young people inquiring about trades.

Money is expected to flow with the pipeline.

The pipeline is estimated to be worth $300 billion in additional gross domestic product over 30 years.

Governments are expected to net an estimated $80 billion in tax and royalty revenues over those three decades: $36 billion for Ottawa, $32 billion for Alberta and $6.7 billion for B.C.

Saskatchewan would net an estimated $4 billion.

However, not everyone is excited about the employment and financial opportunities the project could generate.

Other groups, such as B.C.’s First Nations, oppose the decision and plan to fight it in court.

“We unequivocally reject the Harper Government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project and First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” said the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs in a statement to the Canadian government.

The union and more than two dozen tribes and First Nations groups believe the Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project exposes communities from Alberta to the Pacific Coast to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills.

They also argue that the government failed to properly consult them in making the decision.

Enbridge faces other hurdles before it can begin construction. It must also meet five, mostly environmental, conditions established by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

by Russell Hixson

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