TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The recently elected Liberal government of British Columbia (BC), under the leadership of Premier Christy Clark, has rejected the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project on environmental concerns.
Energy giant Enbridge’s pipeline project, which entailed the construction of two pipelines stretching 1 177 km from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port on the North Coast of BC, with the capacity to move 525 000 bbl/d of oil, was deemed to hold too great a risk for oil spillages, and its proponents presented too little evidence that risk factors would be mitigated, provincial Environment Minister Terry Lake said in a statement.
"Northern Gateway has said that they would provide effective spill response in all cases. However, they have presented little evidence as to how they will respond. For that reason, our government cannot support the issuance of a certificate for the pipeline as it was presented to the joint review panel,” he said in the province’s final written submissions to the joint review panel to address BC’s environmental concerns.
Lake noted that the BC government’s position on the Gateway proposal was not a rejection of heavy-oil projects in BC and that all proposals would be judged on their merits and measured against the province’s five conditions for pipeline projects.
Those conditions included a fair share of fiscal and economic benefits of heavy-oil projects, recognising the treaty and legal rights of First Nations and the development of “world-leading” marine and land oil-spill prevention and recovery systems.
Environmental activist, the Pembina Institute senior policy analyst Nathan Lemphers said Clark had listened to the concerns of British Columbians, considered the evidence presented by Enbridge and found the proposal failed to address the province's environmental concerns.
"This decision is a cautionary tale for the federal government, Alberta and the oil sands industry. If they want to see additional pipelines, they will need to accelerate improvements toward regulating upstream impacts of oil sands development and minimising the risk of oil spills," he stated.
He added that BC’s rejection of the pipeline proposal sent an important message to proponents of oil sands pipelines: “It's premature to start building additional pipeline capacity from the oil sands until we have a credible plan in place to responsibly manage and transport oil sands”.
“As the final decision on this pipeline proposal rests in the hands of the federal government, BC’s announcement sends a strong signal to Ottawa that this project is not in the national interest barring significant improvements,” Lemphers said.