Yesterday (June 17), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet conditionally approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The twin pipeline would go from Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia; a distance of 731 miles.
In announcing the approval, National Resource Manager Greg Rickford said: “Today constitutes another step in the process… 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.”
The approval is contingent on Enbridge meeting 209 conditions set forth by the National Energy Board (NEB) last December. But, while some of the conditions address environmental concerns, none of them address climate change.
The pipeline’s far from being a done deal. Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy Campaigner at ForestEthics, said: “This is just such a high risk project that goes through some of the most incredible parts of the world. And for what? To ship unrefined tar sands to get to U.S. and Asian markets. It’s just politically and environmentally and socially a risky project.” She further went on to say: “This Harper government has basically changed all environmental legislation to pave the way for pipelines. They completely gut environmental legislation to make it easier for these kinds of projects to be approved.”
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says that the five conditions she demands have not been met. “None of the proposals have met the five conditions yet, so therefore, none of them would be approved,. I have said there are five conditions. Any proposal to expand heavy oil through British Columbia needs to meet the five conditions. Enbridge hasn’t met them yet and they need to before they would be approved by our province.” These conditions include consulting with First Nations, environmental concerns and the promise that British Columbia would receive “a fair share” of the pipeline’s profits.
Discussions with First Nations are part of many of the conditions Enbridge must meet. A government release states: “Consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits. 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.”
However, the First Nations are standing firm in their opposition as well. The oilsands boom has come to mean troubling cancer rates, contamination of vital waterways and damage to their homeland, livelihood and culture. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Chiefs, says that they’re considering lawsuits and civil disobedience to try to stop the pipeline. “We fully expected the Harper government to make every effort to ram this project through. But…there’s enormous solidarity here in British Columbia between First Nations people, British Columbians, Canadians, and we’ll do what’s necessary and whatever it takes to stop this project.”
Add to this that two thirds of British Columbia residents are against the pipeline or want it postponed, and that the NDP and Liberal parties are planning on using the pipeline as a campaign issue against Harper’s Conservative Party in next year’s elections, and the pipeline’s going to have a rough time getting final approval. We hope that the others come to their senses and realize that the Northern Gateway is not just a bad deal for the First Nations, but for all of us.