Proposed pipeline generates flood of support, opposition
- Proposed pipeline generates flood of support, opposition
By Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun
January 5, 2012 5:24 AM
First nations opponents of Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline say the company's aboriginal benefits program is a buyout and 'a bit of desperation' to gain support for the controversial project.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
The mother of all public hearings begins Tuesday in Kitimat as a federal panel launches hearings into Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The 1,170-kilometre-long twinned pipeline would carry oil from Alberta's oilsands across B.C.'s midsection to a yet-to-be constructed tanker port in Kitimat.
The enormously controversial project "would traverse the salmon-bearing Upper Fraser and Skeena watersheds, cross nearly 800 streams and rivers, and would introduce oil tanker traffic to the province's northern coastal waters," warns For-estEthics, an environmental group opposing the project.
The pipeline's route cuts across territory claimed by aboriginal groups, most of whom are dead against the $5.5-billion project.
Indeed, battle lines could not be more clearly drawn.
The federal panel will scrutinize everything from risk assessment to project design. But in fact the hearings and foofaraw accompanying them will determine whether the project is politically viable in an era of heightened environ-mental activism.
Environmentalists and aboriginals - plus some movie stars - cooperated last fall to scotch U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, aimed at carrying oilsands product to Texas refineries. They consider a B.C. pipeline to be just as environmentally untenable.
President Barack Obama has delayed a decision on the Key-stone project until at least 2013, although a recent congressional bill could now force a decision by February.
The Harper Conservatives believe the B.C. pipeline is essential to advance Canada's strategic trade interests.
With the American market for oilsands bitumen looking increasingly iffy, Ottawa is keen on infrastructure to enable shipments of petroleum to hungry Asian markets.
Promoting a similar view, the lobby group EthicalOil.org, based in Toronto and Calgary, is trying to discredit the environmental crusaders, announcing an ad campaign this week highlighting donations the activists have received from U.S. sources, such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, both California-based.
"Whether or not Canada decides to build this pipeline is a Canadian decision, based on Canadian interests, not the political interests of foreigners or their Canadian puppets," asserts EthicalOil.org's Kathryn Marshall.
"Foreigner billionaires and their local lobbyists should butt out."
Enormous amounts of money are at stake for both the anti-pipeline activists and the oil industry.
Houston consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates, if Northern Gateway is thwarted, potential losses for Alberta's oil producers would be roughly $8 billion a year between 2017 and 2025.
So, it's no surprise, more than 4,000 people have registered to appear before the federal panel.
The panel, representing both the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environ-mental Assessment Agency, will visit 40 B.C. communities to hear input, with final arguments scheduled for March of 2013.
ForestEthics, with offices in Vancouver, Bellingham and San Francisco and a $2-mil-lion-a-year budget, already has complained about a lack of B.C. representation on the three-member panel.
The group, promising to deploy "legal means as well as traditional protest tactics" to defeat Enbridge's project, points out two panel members are Albertan - a lawyer and an environmental consultant - and one is Ontarian, an aboriginal mining advocate.
ForestEthics also objects to the fact the panel lacks a mandate to examine "broader greenhouse gas emissions and climate change implications of the project and the land, water, air and health impacts of tar-sands expansion facilitated by the pipeline."
Its Smithers-based "senior energy campaigner" Nikki Skuce said in an interview Wednesday protests will begin in late March to coincide with the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The group's strategy is to go over the heads of politicians to rally public support so that Prime Minister Harper and B.C. Premier Christy Clark, facing a 2013 election, will be scared straight.
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