June 18, 2014 12:40 am

Government accepts panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway pipeline

The federal government has accepted the independent panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway proposal.

The 1,177-kilometre, $6.5 billion Northern Gateway project would transport 525,000 barrels per day of oil products from outside Edmonton to Kitimat on the northern B.C. coast.

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In December, a federal joint review panel ruled the public was best served by recommending the project should be approved, but provided Enbridge with a list of 209 conditions that would need to be met before the project can come to B.C.

The panel said “the environmental, societal and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant.” But Enbridge Northern Gateway President John Carruthers says his company is confident it will meet all of the 209 conditions.

The final decision was left with the federal government.

MAP: The approximate route of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline

Click here to view map »

The Northern Gateway pipeline could carry a variety of crude oil products. The majority of shipments would be diluted bitumen, which is a blend of light and heavy oil products. About 220 tankers would carry it from the Kitimat terminal to Asian markets.

The pipeline is expected to bring more than $300 billion in additional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 30 years.

In the same time frame, the project is expected to generate $1.2 billion in tax revenue for British Columbia.

The company says the pipeline will create more than 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs in B.C.

It could be completed by late 2018.

Opposition

In November, thousands of people gathered to attend a ‘No Enbridge’ rally in Vancouver to call on the government to do more to protect the environment.

First Nations groups have vowed to do everything in their power to stop the pipeline from being built saying an oil spill would damage and destroy their cultural, ecological and economic values.

In April, the residents of Kitimat voted against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project in a non-binding plebiscite. 

On the federal level, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said approving the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the subsequent shipment of oil from British Columbia’s northern coast, would be “madness.” Mulcair says the project is too dangerous for the environment.

Meanwhile, the academic community has also voiced its concern. Three hundred scientists from around the world have signed a letter urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject a federal panel report recommending approval. The letter says the report by the joint review panel is “indefensible as a basis to judge in favour of the project.”

The letter’s chief concern: the panel did not look at the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the expansion in oil sands production, it says.

In an exclusive interview with Global BC’s Chris Gailus, executive vice president of Enbridge Janet Holder admitted the company did not do a good job of communicating to the entire province.

Holder says she was aware of the debate around Northern Gateway when she became the lead on the project in 2011, but she didn’t know how impassioned it would become.

WATCH: Executive vice president of Enbridge Janet Holder speaks with Global BCs Chris Gailus about the Northern Gateway proposal

A poll conducted last November found support for the pipeline is up.

The poll, conducted by Insights West, shows support for the pipeline stands at 42 per cent, up seven points since February.

Opposition to the project has dropped 14 points from 61 per cent opposed to 47 per cent opposed in the same time period.

READ MORE: Northern Gateway pipeline project: Where is support strongest?

Christy Clark’s stand

The B.C. government says it can’t support Northern Gateway in its current form, and officially declared opposition to the pipeline a year ago.

Prior to that, premier Christy Clark maintained her support for the project depended on it meeting her five conditions that include a “fair share” of the economic benefits for B.C., an environmental review, world-leading marine and land oil spill response and prevention systems, and addressing the rights of First Nations.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake said the province’s rejection was in part because it saw “little evidence” on how Enbridge would respond to spills.

Environmentalists across the province applauded the move.

Read: British Columbia’s stance on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project

Possible spill response

A recent study by the UBC Fisheries Centre says the financial costs of a worst-case scenario tanker spill off the north coast of British Columbia could outweigh the economic rewards of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline for the region.

It says total losses due to oil contamination could range from $90 to $300 million in lost output in other ocean industries, thousands of jobs and up to $200 million of lost GDP.

Northern Gateway officials said the study was deeply flawed, including that it compares economic benefits that are certain to occur with spill costs that are highly improbable.

Enbridge’s own assessments suggest a spill of such magnitude is “a one in 15,000 year event.”

Another study from Simon Fraser University says Enbridge is drastically underestimating the likelihood of oil spills from the project. The company claims the report is misleading.

Enbridge claims it will add new radar and navigation aids to make it safer for all vessels, as well as build a safe and protected deepwater terminal at Kitimat.

It also says licensed, local B.C. coast pilots will guide their tankers going through one of the deepest and widest waterways on Canada’s Northwest Coast.

Track record

According to numbers obtained by Global News, Enbridge has had nine pipeline failures in Alberta since 2001, spilling more than 8,700 barrels of crude oil. But that doesn’t include spills from pipelines that cross provincial or international borders.

In July 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured and spilled 3.3 million litres into Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan.

Nearly four years after the spill, the company is still dealing with its after-effects.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge to perform additional dredging to remove submerged oil.

However, Holder says Enbridge has dramatically improved its safety measures since the incident, including recovery guidelines three times faster than Canadian standards.

Watch: The aftermath of the 2010 Michigan Spill

 

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