The Enbridge Edmonton Terminal
Credits: IAN KUCERAK/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - The federal government approved the Northern Gateway project Tuesday, a confirmation that had already riled pipeline foes before the decision was announced.
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford's announcement opened Round 2 of what will become a lengthy legal skirmish with some aboriginal bands and environmentalists threatening to disrupt the $7-billion project.
The pipeline had already won the first round: approval in December from the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency after 18 months of public hearings.
Regulators imposed 209 conditions on builder Enbridge before shovels break ground on the twin 1,177-km pipeline from Alberta to the BC coastal municipality of Kitimat, where super-tankers are to ship diluted bitumen to Asia.
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In his announcement, Rickford said Enbridge must demonstrate how it will meet those conditions and undertake extensive consultations with aboriginal communities along the proposed route.
"It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments," he said in a statement.
"The proponent (Enbridge) clearly has more work to do in order to fulfil the public commitment it has made to engage with aboriginal groups and local communities."
Alberta and Saskatchewan support the project while BC Premier Christy Clark has reservations because of a political backlash and some public apprehension.
She has ordered a series of conditions of her own before permits are issued, including cutting-edge spill technology and rapid response and recovery.
Those in support, including many aboriginal groups, argue the pipeline is safer than rail and truck to transport crude, and would help unclog a bottleneck on oil production because of pipeline incapacity.
New Democrats and Liberals see Northern Gateway as an opportunity to unseat 21 Conservative MPs in BC in 2015, risking their own support in provinces that embrace energy and resource development and the tax revenues that follow.
"It's going to be a bug ballot box issue," NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said.
Mulcair said an NDP government would rip up the agreement and prevent tankers from destroying the eco-tourism industry off the BC shoreline.
"None of this will be built before the 2015 election. We will set this decision aside," he said.
"Super-tankers in the Douglas Channel is pure madness."
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would also cancel the agreement.
"It not only threatens the coastal economy, but the jobs of thousands of people who live on the ocean," he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged both the NDP and Liberal opposition to Northern Gateway and resource development.
"We all know the NDP is ideologically opposed to all development resources, something they have called a disease on the Canadian economy," Harper said.
"We know very well the leader of the Liberal Party's, and his party's, deep hostility to Canada's energy sector," he said, referring to Pierre Trudeau's despised National Energy Program that still reverberates out West.
The pipeline is projected to carry 525,000 barrels of crude a day.