Joint Review Panel approves Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project with 209 conditions

Joint Review Panel approves Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project with 209 conditions

After years of interviews, research, and deliberation the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline has approved the project, subject to 209 conditions. The news release stated that, ‘based on a scientific and precautionary approach to this complex review, the Panel found that the project, if built and operated in compliance with the conditions set out in its report, would be in the public interest.’

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a $7.9 billion proposal to build and operate two pipelines and a marine terminal. The pipelines would run 1,178 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, where the marine terminal would be built.

The announcement was made on December 19, 2013, and has been received with mixed reactions across the province. Some of the most pressing conditions include including developing a marine mammal protection plan, researching heavy oil cleanup and conducting emergency response exercises.

“After weighing the evidence, we concluded that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project,” said the panel in its roughly 500-page report.

The final decision now rests with the federal government, which has 180 days to decide the fate of the project. While they haven’t indicated outright support or rejection, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s office issued a statement after the approval, saying the project would not be approved by the government unless it is safe for Canadians and the environment.

“The panel’s report represents a rigorous, open and comprehensive science-based assessment,” reads the statement. “Now that we have received the report, we will thoroughly review it … and then make our decision. We also encourage everyone with an interest to take the time and review the report.”

Environmental and First Nations groups have long opposed the project, and say that this decision only reinforces their resolve to see that the project will never be built. More than 130 aboriginal bands have signed a declaration against the project.

A press release issued by the Coastal First Nations states they are ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ by the Joint Review Panel’s (JRP) recommendation to conditionally approve Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project.

“We aren’t surprised by the JRP’s recommendation,” said Coastal First Nations Executive Director Art Sterritt. “Their power and authority to make a decision on the Northern Gateway Pipeline was stripped by the Federal Government early in the process, so their ability to make an independent decision was seriously compromised.”

The Coastal First Nations claims that the Panel was limited in their review due to uncompleted scientific and technical assessments. “The JRP has acknowledged the limitations of its review, and until the technological and scientific work is completed, the Enbridge project cannot go ahead,” said Sterritt. “It’s not good enough for the Federal Government to say we have world class oil spill clean up technologies. The fact of the matter is that no effort has been made by oil companies to improve clean up technologies in the last 25 years.”

Premier Christy Clark has laid out five conditions for B.C. to support the pipeline. So far, those five conditions haven’t been met, most notably B.C.’s demand that legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights are met. Clark also stirred up national debate by demanding that B.C. receive a ‘fair share’ of the ‘fiscal and economic benefits.’