The federal government may have approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline project, but widespread opposition in B.C. means the road to completion is fraught with challenges.
The decision is still subject to 209 conditions recommended last year by the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel, as well as five conditions set by the B.C. government, but public buy-in simply doesn’t exist, said Victoria MP Murray Rankin.
“There’s no social licence to proceed on this project,” said Rankin, who along with Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen spoke at length against the pipeline approval in the House of Commons.
Rankin said B.C. residents can now voice their opposition most strongly at the ballot box in the 2015 federal election.
“One concrete action that can be done is we can defeat the 21 Conservatives in B.C. who hid from the people they represent,” he said.
There are more than 130 First Nations across B.C. opposed to the project, and ensuing legal battles on the pipeline route are likely to drag through the courts for years, Rankin added.
“The pipeline route goes under salmon-bearing rivers, and it’s going to cut right through one of the herds of endangered mountain caribou. Those are both the subject of lawsuits,” he said.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Weaver said the provincial government has the authority to grant or deny dozens of construction permits for the 1,177-kilometre pipeline, and Premier Christy Clark can echo public opinion by opposing the project.
“The fact is, Kitimat is opposed to this project. First Nations are opposed to it. British Columbians are opposed to it. It’s time for the provincial government to draw a line in the sand,” said Weaver, deputy leader of the B.C. Green Party.
Clark has set five conditions for Northern Gateway that include world leading marine and land spill protections, resolution of aboriginal concerns and a fair share of benefits for B.C.
Environment Minister Mary Polak said the decision means the project meets the first of those five conditions, a successful federal review.
“We recognize the benefits that the Northern Gateway project may bring, but they will not be at the expense of our environment,” Polak said.
Rankin said Clark would be “hypocritical” not to oppose construction of the $6.8 billion project.
“This is the fight of our generation,” he said. Rankin also promised the NDP would set aside the pipeline approval if elected to a majority in 2015. “I’m a lawyer and I’ll help in any way I can. I’ll stand beside our aboriginal citizens in any way I can. … Bottom line: this pipeline will never be built.”
The twin pipelines would carry 525,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen from the oil sands west to Kitimat and send condensate to act as a thinning agent east to Alberta.