December 18, 2013
Panel approves Northern Gateway pipeline project
B.C. construction leaders are applauding a federal review panel's decision to approve Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline subject to a number of conditions, but there is strong opposition to the project from First Nations and environmental groups.
“I think the Northern Gateway pipeline decision is the right one for the country and B.C. will be able to deliver on it,” said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
“I am sure the conditions the B.C. Premier put on the project will be met by Enbridge and my members are looking forward to working on the project. If we can’t build a pipeline in a safe and environmentally friendly way in Canada, I don’t know where else in the world they can.”
The Joint Review Panel for Enbridge’s $6.4 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline project released its report on Dec. 19.
The panel operates under a mandate from the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board.
It found that the construction of the pipeline would have significant adverse environmental effects, but these adverse effects are justified in the circumstances by the significant local, regional and national benefits.
Keith Sashaw, president and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC) in B.C., agreed that the benefits of the project are outweighed by the benefits.
“We fully support this project and Canada’s role as a resource exporting country,” he said.
“It is important for the Canadian economy to move forward with this project. We are certain that any adverse impacts on the environment and aboriginal issues can be mitigated and dealt with.”
The ACEC argues that there is a need for Canada to diversify energy exports away from the United States and towards more rapidly growing economies.
In sharp contrast, First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA) are strongly opposed to the project and panel’s recommendation.
“It’s no surprise that a flawed process has led to a flawed recommendation,” said YDA spokesperson Martin Louie, who is also the Chief of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation.
“This project will never be built. The Yinka Dene Alliance has clearly refused permission for Enbridge’s pipelines to cut through our lands and waters, and the federal and provincial governments must accept that this project cannot go ahead.”
The position of the YDA is outlined in the Save the Fraser Declaration, which is an indigenous law that bans Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipelines from First nation’s territories.
More than 130 First nations have signed the declaration.
Nothing is changed by the (Joint Review Panel’s) JRP’s pronouncement,” said Louie. “Enbridge is not from this place, does not understand our laws and customs, and will profit by damaging our environment now and into the future.”
Environmental groups have also vowed to fight against the panel’s recommendation, because of the project is too risky.
“The Northern Gateway pipeline will introduce an unprecedented increase in tanker traffic on Canada’s west coast, and along with it, the risk of a catastrophic oil spill,” said Devon Page, executive director of EcoJustice.
“The pipeline itself will cross hundreds of fish-bearing streams, rivers and lakes, and will fragment fragile ecosystems and endangered animal habitat.”
In response to environmental concerns, the panel outlined more than 200 conditions that the project has to meet in order to proceed.
These conditions include improvements to marine tanker traffic safety, enhanced oil spill response, more rigorous pipeline inspections, a plan for monitoring the pipeline's effect on the environment and submitting plans for monitoring species at risk, including proposals for caribou habitat restoration.
The panel concluded that a large spill was unlikely, but if it did occur, the environment would recover and return to a functioning ecosystem.
None of the conditions address Aboriginal rights and title in relation to the construction and operation of the pipeline project.
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) argues that the project will have a negative impact on employment and the provincial economy.
“They’ve placed more than 200 conditions on this approval, but none of those caveats change the fact that this pipeline will siphon jobs out of Alberta, out of Canada and out of North America,” said AFL president Gil McGowan.
“Instead of those jobs being created Fort McMurray or Fort Saskatchewan, they’ll be created in Shanghai or Bejing.”
According to the AFL, the project will create 228 permanent jobs and about 1,500 short-term construction jobs. However, more than 26,000 long-term high-paying upgrading jobs will be farmed out to low-wage countries.
The federal government has 180 days to make a final decision on whether or not this project should proceed. This means construction could start by early 2015 if the project is approved and be completed by 2018.
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