An organizer with the Victoria, British Columbia-based Dogwood Initiative is asking a question that would have been unthinkable (or at least very premature) a couple of years ago: Is Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline dead?
A year after residents of the proposed oil port of Kitimat defeated the pipeline by 58.4 to 41.6% in a non-binding plebiscite, Kai Nagata’s feature article in The Tyee traces the history before the plebiscite and since, noting that Dogwood’s Let BC Vote campaign has drawn 110,000 new supporters in the last year. The pipeline has “tepid” approval from the federal Cabinet, but its earliest start date is now 2019, according to Enbridge CEO Al Monaco.
“Even that seems optimistic,” Nagata writes. “Enbridge still has no firm shipping agreements with oil producers. One of the 209 conditions attached to the certificate issued by the National Energy Board is that 60% of the pipeline’s capacity be confirmed six months before shovels can hit the ground. If Enbridge can’t sign transportation shipping agreements by June 2016, the NEB certificate expires.”
But with oil prices crashing, the next year might not be the best of times for a pipeline company in search of customers or investors.
“From investment newsletters to energy conferences to the halls of the Alberta government, people who follow pipeline politics are now talking about the likelihood that Northern Gateway will never be built,” Nagata writes. “In fact, in energy circles the project has become a cautionary tale,” not least because of Enbridge’s “longstanding enmity with some of the most powerful Indigenous groups on the continent.”