The Joint Review Panel has recommended the approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project with 209 required conditions to be met.
The panel has found that the $6-billion project, if built and operated in compliance with the conditions set out in its report, would be “in the public interest.”
The panel recommends that the Governor in Council determines that the construction and routine operation of the project would cause no significant adverse environmental effects, with the exception of cumulative effects for certain populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bear.
The report finds that cumulative effects as a result of this project and other projects, activities or actions are likely to be at the low end of the range of possible significance.
The panel says the environmental burdens associated with project construction and routine operation can generally be effectively mitigated and that continued monitoring, scientific research and adaptive management could further reduce adverse effects.
As for potential oil spills, the panel says “the environmental, societal and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant.”
They say they found that Northern Gateway had taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill. The report also found that after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low.
The panel’s conditions, which would be enforced by the National Energy Board, include requirements for Enbridge Northern Gateway to:
The panel points out the economic benefits of the project. That view was echoed by the BC Chamber of Commerce.
In a statement, the organization says it welcomes the report, calling the pipeline “a pivotal, job-creating project.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has previously said her support for the project will depend on the project meeting the five conditions that include an environmental review, world-leading marine and land oil spill response and prevention systems, as well as addressing Aboriginal and First Nations rights.
The pipeline is definitely not a done deal, and environmental and First Nations groups are expected to launch legal challenges soon.
Enbridge Northern Gateway President John Carruthers says his company is confident they will meet all of the 209 conditions.
“They’ve set a very high standard, that’s what Canada wanted, that’s what B.C. demanded, and that’s what we demanded of ourselves. I believe we can meet that high standard.”
B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak says she feels Enbridge now understands the five conditions must be met for the B.C. government to lend its support to the project.
“I believe they understand our seriousness with respect to the matter,” says Polak.
Polak says while the alleged economic benefits of the pipeline is something that is important for all Canadians, it cannot be at the expense of B.C.’s environment.
“There has to be a balance struck, and we have raised the bar with our five conditions,” says Polak.
NDP leader Adrian Dix says he is disappointed — but not surprised by the federal panel’s decision.
“British Columbia spoke very clearly in the process,” says Dix. “Over 99 per cent of the oral submissions made were opposed. The official opposition, many communities and the Government of B.C., in its submission expressed its strong opposition to the proposal which today was approved, subject to future federal approval.”
Dix is calling on the B.C. Liberal government to take steps to ensure that the pipeline does not go forward.
“The fact is, that Enbridge Northern Gateway, is not and won’t be supported in British Columbia. The government should be standing up clearly in opposition to this proposal. It’s not in our economic and environmental interests.”
He says the B.C. NDP will fight the pipeline proposal however it can.
“This is one more step in a process, unfortunately British Columbians will have to say no to a project which is not in our interests, and is a risk to our economy, and to our environment.”
Liberal critic for Natural Resources Halifax West MP Geoff Regan calls today’s report “deeply troubling.”
“Canada needs pipelines to move our energy resources to domestic and global markets. However, these projects must earn the trust of communities, and cannot ignore Aboriginal rights, nor can they place our lands, waterways and ecosystems at risk,” says Regan.
It will be up to the federal government to make the final decision. It has roughly six months to respond.
Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver says they will review the report, consult with affected Aboriginal groups and then make the final decision. The federal government has 180 days to review the report.
“No project will be approved unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment,” said Oliver in a statement.
Carruthers says Enbridge will now enhance their engagement with British Columbians and aboriginal communities in particular.
“We need to sit down and try and address their concerns one-on-one. They have legitimate concerns, and they have good ideas, so I think if we can work jointly with them, we can be successful.”
“We look forward to working with Aboriginal communities and trying to address their concerns. We can still make changes that address their concerns.”
Natural Resources Canada says during the independent review process, the Panel heard from over 1,450 participants in 21 different communities, reviewed over 175,000 pages of evidence and received 9,000 letters of comment.
Carruthers says 2015 is the earliest that construction could start, “if everything went well from here.”