Northern Gateway pipeline: Yes or no?

The $6B pipeline and what hangs in the balance


VANCOUVER – Following months of hearings, years of debate and dozens of protests, the federal panel reviewing the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline will release its report later today.

Much hangs in the balance.

The $6-billion pipeline that would connect the Alberta oil sands to tankers on British Columbia’s coast bound for the emerging markets of Asia has become the beachhead in the battle between economics and the environment.

If approved, the pipeline will likely be just the first to put billions of dollars into the coffers of Alberta, Ottawa and other provincial governments, not to mention the bank accounts of the proponent, Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB), and the international companies with a stake in the project.

“I would guess that in the early planning stages… they thought these were slam-dunks,” Marc Lee, an analyst at the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says of Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and other pipeline projects now facing staunch opposition.

So, what went wrong? What didn’t.

The pipeline was always going to face an uphill battle west of the Rockies, in the province where the environmental movement was bolstered by the decades-old “War in the Woods” against old-growth logging.

Enbridge and the oil patch drastically underestimated the power of Green Corp., the older, wiser and better-funded modern version of the tye-dyed denizens who were arrested trying to save trees in the 1990s. Flush with cash from green philanthropists largely from south of the border, groups like Forest Ethics Advocacy, the Dogwood Initiative and Rising Tides have mounted a relentless campaign in Canada and abroad.

“Now, we could potentially see another ‘war in the woods’ over this pipeline,” Lee says.

Growing concern over climate change has been a factor.

Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects — the Keystone XL to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 through Ontario and Quebec, and Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain line to Metro Vancouver — mean production in the Alberta oil sands could as much as triple by 2035 and the greenhouse gases it emits along with it.

But while the global concern over greenhouse gas emissions may have spurred funding, protests in B.C. have been more of the grassroots, not-in-my-ocean variety.

There are also concerns that the heavy, molasses-like diluted bitumen coming from the oil sands is more corrosive and difficult to clean up in the event of a spill.

But perhaps the toughest hurdle for the project has been the simmering tension between B.C. First Nations and the federal government.

Unlike the rest of Canada, most First Nations in the westernmost province never signed treaties with the Crown. Decades of treaty negotiations have largely gone nowhere and aboriginal rights have been left to the courts.

Before Enbridge ever filed its application for the pipeline, Ottawa made the fateful decision to let the joint review of the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency stand for its duty to consult with First Nations.

“The federal government would not support a process for aboriginal consultation separate from the (joint review panel) process…,” said an internal Aboriginal Consultation Plan obtained by The Canadian Press using an Access to Information request.

That didn’t go well.

“We’re treated as a stakeholder in this process,” Carrie Henchitt, a lawyer for the Heiltsuk Nation, said as the panel hearings became increasingly adversarial earlier this year. “We are not just stakeholders. We have specific rights very different from other interest groups.”

Many aboriginal groups opposed to the pipeline refused to take part in the review. Several have indicated they are already preparing court action should the project get the nod.

“Even if the joint review panel says yes, and even if the Harper government says yes, I don’t think this is going to get built any time soon. This will be in courts for a really long time,” Lee says.

The political backlash was not limited to First Nations.

The Conservative government became defensive over oil patch expansion, with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver branding opponents “foreign special interests groups” that threatened to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

The government changed the rules to give cabinet the final say on the approval, and rewrote the rules around waterways and environmental protections.

It wasn’t until after the project was mired in controversy that Oliver announced rules that began to address some of the concerns around tanker and pipeline safety, and liability in the event of a spill.

Greg D’Avignon, president of the B.C. Business Council, says the outcome of the Northern Gateway project will shape B.C.’s future. Either the province will have a multibillion-dollar project or a reputation as the “no” province.

“The reality is whether you support this particular project or not, that culture is now building a bit of a reputation and we’re going to suffer the consequences in terms of our quality of life, our ability to fund education and health care if we don’t start to figure out how to get things done,” he says.

The demand for oil has not diminished, but it Canada can’t meet those needs the market will go elsewhere, he says.

There is disconnect in the public over the oil industry, D’Avignon says.

“Vancouver Island would shut down in three days if it weren’t for the oil barge that goes out of Burrard Inlet a couple times a week,” he says.

“So, we like the benefits of oil but we don’t want the ability to actually extract it, move it, sell it into the marketplace and create jobs from it.

“And we need to reconcile that, because even if we stopped using oil today, it would be 30 to 40 years before there would be alternative energy sources to pick up that demand in the market place.”

Despite the hurdles, the proponent remains optimistic.

Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht says years of hard work went into the application, and the company believe it can build the safest pipeline in the world.

“It’s an important step for us, but it’s been a very thorough process by the joint review panel and we’re looking forward to the announcement.”


Northern Gateway pipeline: Yes or no?

  1. How rhetorical; “northern pipeline”? It’s a western pipeline. The north is safe and secure and not melting.

    Even though news editors were aware of it how many of us knew that the scientific consensus wasn’t that it WILL be a crisis but rather nothing beyond just “could be” a crisis and not one IPCC says it WILL be or is “inevitable” or anything beyond; “could be”. Prove me wrong.

    You remaining climate blame believers can think what you like but YOU cannot tell our children it WILL be a crisis until science does.

    • Meanwhile, until they absolutely confirm, we collectively do as little as possible. That follows.

    • “not one IPCC says it WILL be or is “inevitable” or anything beyond; “could be”. Prove me wrong.”

      Yes, you’re wrong. Could bevery likely.

      The IPCC provides a probability of :
      >95% that the warming since 1950 is entirely human caused.
      >66% that we’ll see another .3C-.7C of warming averaged over 2016-2035

      0.3°C to 0.7°C
      0.3°C to 0.7°C
      0.3°C to 0.7°C>66% that we’ll see another 1.5C-2C of warming averaged over 2081-2100
      >90% that arctic sea ice and world-wide glacial mass will continue to decline

      Science deals in probabilities, not “WILL(s)”.

      • Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in human history.

        • Or the greatest threat facing humanity, depending on who you ask.

          • True….if you ask the “climate scientists” who receive millions in funding for their “research” (read: salary)…..they will tell you it is a threat, and that CO2, is an evil pollutant…as opposed to an essentail gas for life.
            Ask someone who takes the time to think about things logically, and compare the arguments……you may get some waffling.
            Global warming is not the issue…as the climate has never been static. The issue is about man-made global warming…..and REAL scientists, are still skeptical. Any person who describes himself as an “expert” and says the debate is over…..is not a real scientist.
            YOu want to know what controls the climate? Look up at that big ball of burning hydrogen in the sky. THAT…is your climate control device.

          • I was actually thinking “If you ask the current Prime Minister of Canada”.

    • I like the “could” versus “inevitably will” straw-man comparison you’ve set up.

      I can see other uses of this reasoning going really well.

      “The airplane mechanic told me that there was a 90% chance that the plane would burst into a fireball within 5 minutes of take off. However, he never said that the plane WILL burst into a fireball within five minutes of takeoff, so I got on the plane”.

    • You do realize that it was ENBRIDGE that came up with the name “Northen Gateway pipeline”?

      Are you under the impression that Enbridge is involved in a rhetorical conspiracy to damage the reputation of their OWN PIPELINE PROPOSAL?

      • Same as when the fools object to calling them Tar-Sands.
        That’s what they called them for a long time until Joe Oliver and the PMO decided to revise history.

        • Fools who object to calling them “Tar Sands” are more likely looking for accuracy, not rhetoric.
          No TAR in the tar sands….it’s bitumen.

          • Folk who object to the name tar sands have no idea of the history of the area or even basic chemistry.

            According the Alberta Gov on the CAPP web site
            “The hydrocarbon mixtures found in northern Alberta have historically been referred to as tar, pitch or asphalt.”

            so the recent change for cosmetic reasons is nothing to do with tar/ bitumen or or oil or even chemistry it is a PR attempt by the industry to lose what it feels is a nasty name.

            As for there being “no tar there” well as tar is a manufactured product made from many hydrocarbon sources – tar is indeed there, just as it is in decaying pine forests.

            The La Brea tar pits are another such place where tar is used instead of asphalt or crude.

            Just because you don’t like the historical colloquialism for commercial cosmetic reasons doesn’t mean you get to change history.
            They always were the tar sands and always will be the tar sands.

          • No TAR in the tar sands….it’s bitumen.

            “Bitumen”: Noun – a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing.

            “Tar”: Noun – a dark, thick, flammable liquid distilled from wood or coal, consisting of a mixture of hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols, and other compounds. It is used in roadmaking and for coating and preserving timber.

            Saying “there’s no tar in the tar sands… it’s bitumen” is akin to saying “there’s no metal in that skyscraper… it’s steel”.

    • It’s what your children/grand children will think of you and the other denialists pushing your line that should worry you more.
      When they say “Grandpa/ma what did you do to ensure that the mess we find ourselves in now never happened?”
      I’m sure they’ll be impressed to hear you say, “well I actually decided that the opinion of thousands of scientists were wrong and that the various industry funded shill organisations were right. Well that and because people to the left of me agreed with the scientists I just had to take the other side because I’m like that.”

    • so said the frog as the water slowly heated up

  2. “flush with cash from green philanthropists”

    What about the oil companies with their flow through mining shares and exploration tax credits and investment write-offs? What about what the government of Canada and Alberta are spending on lobbying and advertising? Aren’t they “flush with cash” too?

      • Thanks for the link. It pisses me off so much that the deck is so stacked in favour of proponents already and then government interferes blatantly and repeatedly and acts like a co-proponent instead of the impartial decision maker.

        Somehow environmentalists get the word out, but the story reporters come away with is how powerful the environmental lobby has become!

        I swear if they were reporting for the bible the story would be “Sumerian philanthropists fund David for high tech weaponry to fight job creating Goliath.”

        • Yup. That’s clearly a leftie paper but they’ve been sending me links for free so i read some of it. As far as i can see they may be the only media running with what is a shocking story.[ it is worth following some of the links]
          I’ve given a couple a bucks to The Dogwood Initiative. As far as i know they’re hardly more then a bunch of bright and well meaning kids in their mum’s basement. What the hell are we doing spying on them? It’s incredible really, but hardly likely to be just the results of the efforts of this govt.

          • Still hard aground on that lee shore I see.

          • Still voting yourself up, i see.

            If a Liberal govt was spying on you you’d be complaining, no?

        • Vivian Krause has a lot to answer for.

  3. Oil transport only makes up about 10%. The rest of the transport in BC waters and coastal waters is all done by ferries and freight. When a ferry capsizes, that too will leave a spill behind. But I guess those spills are acceptable.

    Double standards, as always.

    • If you can’t understand the orders of magnitude difference between the volume of fuel and oil carried by a ferry, and that carried by a supertanker, I suggest you educate yourself.

      • So then the LNG’s going out of Kitimat will be done with jerry cans in tugboats? Please edumicate us!

        • NG is a gas at regular temperatures.
          A spill won’t coat the ocean, killing everything it touches and persisting for decades.

          Always happy to educate you.

          • So when a tanker runs aground, or the pipeline fails, all will be good then? No violent expansion of the liquid into gas that will more than likely ignite causing a fireball could make Lac Megantic pale in comparison? Glad to hear it!

          • Do you have trouble following conversations?
            I was responding to the original commenters assertion regarding oil spills.
            There is no doubt that LNG carries significant risks, but oil spills, other than the oil used for the operation of the LNG tanker itself, isn’t one of them.

          • I can follow a conversation all right, and can also read a headline about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, so I guess to expand on the pipeline subject, I brought up the LNG issue, and hall monitor lenny is here to save the day. I’m always amused by the hypocracy of people from B.C. over pipelines (among other things), so I poke a bit of fun at their pipeline of choice, and the justifications of it. Anyhoo, carry on being the smartest guy on the planet, a true legend in your own mind!

          • hypocracy – Conservative Party of Canada contribution to governance models in the early 21st century. Combined form of hypocrisy and democracy.

          • Perfect!

          • Your comment was a direct response to the difference between an oil tanker spilling it’s cargo, and a ferry leaking motor oil.
            As far as my hypocrisy goes, you seem to be presuming that I’m an advocate or supporter of LNG exports. Unsurprisingly, you’re once again wrong.
            However, I see no hypocrisy in those that are in favour of one over the other – they both carry different risks and rewards. Risks and rewards that many folks not named “Joe” are able to consider and weigh.

      • Lenny….if you can’t understand the orders of magnitude of difference between the emissions of Canada from Chinese, Indian, and American coal plants….I suggest you educate yourself.
        We could develop the oil-sands at ten times the rate they are currently being developed….and we’d still just be a minor blip on the CO2 index in comparison.
        Most of the opposition to the oil sands is funded by foreign oil companies /governments who simply don’t want the competition in the market. More oil…..price goes down.

        • Sorry, James. You’ve got a vivid imagination, but you’ll find nothing in my comment or this thread about emissions.

    • we believe you francien!

  4. US media is now refusing to publish letters, posts, articles etc from the denial crowd. It’s slowly happening here as well. Climate change denial is now in the same category as a flat earth.

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