Vowing to fight back: Groups opposed to Northern Gateway pipeline approval speak out

ABOVE: A green-light from the feds is one thing, but Premier Christy Clark has stated Enbridge first must meet the five conditions laid out in this province. Keith Baldrey has more.

VANCOUVER – The Northern Gateway Pipeline has been given a conditional approval by the federal government and while this may or may not surprise some, groups opposed to the project are vowing to fight back.

First Nations groups say they will immediately go to court to “vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.”

In a release, the groups said

“This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories. Our rights and laws compel us to act.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project exposes all communities from Alberta to the Pacific Coast to the undeniable risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills. First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the health, the safety and livelihoods of all peoples throughout this province.

We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.

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WATCH: Art Sterritt on the decision:

The groups are also set to hold a rally in Vancouver on Tuesday night with their purpose being to let the federal government know that B.C. does not approve the Northern Gateway Pipeline. It will start at 5:30 p.m. at 700 Hamilton St.

The Federation of BC Naturalists announced it will file a lawsuit challenging the decision. The planned lawsuit will ask the Federal Court of Appeal to set aside this Cabinet decision on a variety of grounds, including what they say were serious deficiencies and flaws in the Dec. 19, 2013 Joint Review Panel report upon which the Cabinet decision is based.

“Filing this lawsuit will ensure that the Federal Court of Appeal is able to hear and consider arguments relating to all of the various flaws and deficiencies associated with Northern Gateway approval process,” said Chris Tollefson, ELC executive director and BC Nature’s lawyer, in a release.

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The Wilderness Committee is also expressing their disappointment at the federal government’s decision.

“At the NEB [National Energy Board] hearings on Northern Gateway, only a few spoke in favour of the pipeline while almost 1,200 folks spoke out against it. Their voices were not heard,” said Eoin Madden, the Wilderness Committee’s climate campaigner.

Both the NEB and the federal cabinet have concluded that the pipeline was in Canada’s public interest, and the Wilderness Committee said the NEB refused to consider the topic of climate change – and the effect the pipeline will have on our climate – during their assessment of the pipeline.

“This proves beyond doubt that the federal government doesn’t care about B.C. and those of us who live here,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “Threatening coastal ecosystems and economies and exacerbating climate change isn’t in B.C.’s best interest, but unfortunately the Prime Minister still hasn’t learned that lesson.”

“Even if we were to avoid a tar sands spill along our coastline, we’ll still be burdened with the guaranteed spill of a hundred million tonnes of climate changing gases into our atmosphere every single year,” Madden said. “We know the true costs of this pipeline when it comes to our coast and our climate – and saddling British Columbians with these costs won’t fly.”

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The NDP has released a statement condemning the approval of the project.

“Today’s decision sets a dangerous precedent for resource development in this country,” said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. “Conservatives are telling Canadians that they will not be heard. Projects like Northern Gateway can happen anywhere, without consideration for First Nations rights, the environment, the risks or the will of the people. This decision is wrong for B.C. and for Canada. Allowing supertankers into the Douglas Channel would be madness and a spill would be catastrophic for the economy of the entire region. In 2015, an NDP government would set aside the approval of this project.”

The BC NPD said this is a bad day for British Columbians. “We have consistently opposed this plan to transport Alberta bitumen to tankers on B.C.’s north coast because the risks to our environment, communities and economy are too great,” said leader John Horgan.

The Liberal Party has also strongly criticized the Conservative’s decision to approve the project, citing concerns for the coastal economy and environment, local communities, and First Nations.

“The Northern Gateway pipeline places an unacceptable level of risk on British Columbia’s coastal economy and environment. From fishing to tourism, those individuals whose jobs and livelihoods depend on the Pacific Ocean have not been assured that a catastrophic spill can be prevented,” said Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau. “The review process has failed to consult with local communities and Aboriginal Peoples, and Canadians have not been reassured that the local economy will be protected.”
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WATCH: Brian Coxford has reaction in Kitimat where people have already voted “no” to the pipeline in a non-binding plebiscite

Not everyone is against the project however.

Alberta premier Dave Hancock issued a statement saying this step by the federal government is a “step forward in accessing new markets for Canada’s energy resources.”

“New markets for our products will create and support more jobs, and generate increased revenue to help pay for vital public services like quality health care and education for all Canadians.

“Alberta will continue to support all safe and viable options to diversify and expand market access for Canada’s resources. This includes increasing current pipeline capacity, developing new pipelines and moving product by rail. Getting product to market is vital to addressing the increased demand as well as a key factor in our country’s economic prosperity.

“Every Canadian, no matter what province they reside in, expects that energy development is done with high standards of environmental protection. Our government continues to take action to meet that expectation by ensuring Alberta’s resources are developed in a transparent, regulated and environmentally responsible manner.

“We recognize there is still much work to be done with the Northern Gateway project and we look forward to the opportunities it presents for all Canadians.”

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The Wildrose official opposition leader Danielle Smith also supports the project, releasing the following statement:

“I welcome the federal government’s decision to grant official approval to the Northern Gateway pipeline. This project will create jobs, increase market access for Alberta energy products and strengthen national and provincial economies across the country when it is finally completed.

“I’m hopeful construction will begin on this project right away. However, I remain skeptical. I believe we will likely still have challenges to address to see this project become a reality.”

Karl Hauch, who is the mayor of Bruderheim, Alberta, where the Northern Gateway Pipeline will start, said this approval is “like a nation building event.”

“I’m not really surprised the federal government has done this,” he told Global News. “I think it’s something that’s really important, not just for Alberta, but for our country.”

“The benefit for our community is obviously some of our businesses are going to benefit from the spinoffs and there will be folks in our community who will be able to gain employment from a project of this magnitude.”

Hauch said there are many in Bruderheim that work in the resource industry and said he has not heard many negative comments in regards to this project.

Former long-time federal minister Stockwell Day said this approval by the government is the right decision for B.C.

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“Having spent a great deal of time working for Canada’s prosperity both here and in our international markets overseas, I know this pipeline is vital to Canadian economic strength and prosperity,” said Day. “It’s essential that we access markets beyond only our friends and neighbours to the south. The vast majority of our oil is exported to the U.S., and as that country moves toward energy self-sufficiency, we’ve been missing an enormous opportunity to obtain real value for this important product. ”


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