Canada’s National Energy Board has suspended its review of Enbridge’s plea for more time to meet the 209 conditions it set in mid-2014, when it granted preliminary approval for the company’s $7.8-billion Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia.
Coming on the heels of a Federal Court of Appeal ruling late last month, which invalidated the NEB’s original approval based on its “brief, hurried, and inadequate” dialogue with First Nations, the NEB announcement appeared to put a final end to the fading pipeline proposal. The decision has been met with silence from Enbridge executive suite.
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When it approved Northern Gateway, the NEB said Enbridge would have to meet the 209 conditions before it could begin construction to drive the twin pipeline through some of Canada’s most remote andrugged territory. Folowing the Court of Appeal ruling, but before the NEB statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated a declaration he first made during last year’s election campaign: “The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a crude oil pipeline.”
But Enbridge, which gained infamy as the operator behind the worst oil spill in U.S. history at Kalamazoo, MI, has yet to concede defeat for its 525,000 barrel-a-day project. Rather, it is reported to be shopping for an alternative terminus for the Pacific end of the line, replacing Kitimat, which is difficult for tankers to approach.
That effort received a boost Saturday from interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a former senior Cabinet minister in the Harper government, who blamed the appeal court decision on federal bureaucrats.“We take recommendations from the Justice Department and so, when told that the duty to consult is met, then we move forward,” she told an annual party barbecue during the Calgary Stampede. “So clearly, even the Justice Department doesn’t know what the threshold is for duty to consult.”
Calgary MP and federal Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr “scoffed at Ambrose not taking responsibility for the problems” with Harper-era consultation practices, the Toronto Sunreports. “It’s clear that her government failed on many fronts,” he said.
Meanwhile, another Toronto-based newspaper is moving on. After declaring Northern Gateway a “no-hoper,” the Globe and Mail sought in an editorial to frame federal approval of at least one of two other proposed Alberta-to-tidewater crude oil pipelines as an existential need for Canada—and for Trudeau’s government. “With Northern Gateway all but written off,” the paper asserted, “the Prime Minister needs to demonstrate that a project critical to the health of Canada’s oil industry can get built in this country.”
The Globe specifically endorsed U.S.-owned Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand its existing TransMountain Alberta-B.C. pipeline to ship diluted crude through Vancouver. That line received NEB approval earlier this year, but First Nations and environmental groups have asked the Federal Court of Canada to overturn the agency’s ruling, arguing that the Board failed to adequately consult with Indigenous communities or consider the pipeline’s impact on wildlife.
Meanwhile, several recent reports from Finance Canada as well as the fossil industry itself have questioned the newspaper’s premise that additional pipelines are “critical” to Canada’s oil industry, suggesting instead that there is insufficient market for the product they would carry to justify the cost of their construction.
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