Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government gave a conditional green light recently to a controversial pipeline project between the Alberta oil sands and the B.C. coast.
The announcement drew immediate criticism from opponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project and a caution from the B.C. government.
The $7.9-billion project proposes to build two pipelines stretching 1,177 kilometres from Alberta to B.C.
In December, a National Energy Board joint federal review panel recommended approval of the pipeline, with 209 conditions.
The decision is subject to those same conditions and further talks with Aboriginal communities, said Greg Rickford, National Resources Minister, in a media release.
Rickford added that the decision “constitutes another step in the process.”
The Conservative government has made it clear that it wants to find a way for Albertan bitumen to reach international markets.
John Weston, Con-servative member of Par-liament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country, said the federal government is standing up for the environment and economic growth with its conditional approval.
“We’re going to do our best to ensure we see nothing but first-rate protection for the environment and fisheries,” Weston said. He added that the 209 conditions include some which will be “very challenging” for Enbridge. “They have a long way to go to build the pipeline despite the regulatory yellow light.”
Weston added that Canadians are capable of great things and that the Northern Gateway Pipeline will be no exception.
“We created a country built on a railway, back in 1867,” he explained. “It was a huge entrepreneurial objective. It was fulfilled and there were risks. We’re capable of building infrastructure to get petroleum products to tide water to stop losing $27 billion per year and aspiring to the greatest environmental standards the world has seen in marine safety and pipelines.”
B.C. Environment Min-ister Mary Polak said the federal government’s approval did not come as a surprise and that the provincial government remains committed to seeing its five conditions met before the project goes ahead.
“We understand the economic benefits that the Northern Gateway project may bring, but it will not be at the cost of our environment,” Polak said.
She added that only one of the conditions for B.C.’s approval has been met so far.
The B.C. government has power to grant or deny dozens of permits needed for the pipeline’s construction.
B.C. First Nations and environmentalists have vowed to block the pipeline’s construction in the courts, through protests and a possible referendum.
Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council represents several First Nations on Vancouver Island.
“We are deeply concerned by Prime Minister Harper’s decision,” Debra Foxcroft, council president, said. “We urge Canadians to stand with First Nations and come together like we have never done before in our history. This is not just an indigenous issue, it is a human issue.”
© Coast Reporter