The Enbridge Northern Gateway is a proposed pipeline and oil tanker project that would ship Alberta oilsands via Kitimat, British Columbia.
Below you will find an overview section describing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project and the controversy surrounding its construction, followed by our latest news and analysis on the subject.
Photo: Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Art Sterritt walk on the boardwalk in Hartley Bay, B.C., along Enbridge's proposed oil tanker route in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Overview of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project
Pipeline company Enbridge filed its application to build the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines in 2010, prompting the establishment of a Joint Review Panel by the federal government.
>The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines would run 1,177 kilometres across from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, B.C., at the head of the Douglas Channel.
The westbound pipeline would carry up to 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day, while the eastbound pipeline would carry 193,000 barrels of condensate per day. Condensate is a product used to thin oilsands bitumen for transport.
The Kitimat Marine Terminal would include two ship berths and 19 storage tanks for diluted bitumen and condensate. Up to 220 oil tankers a year would navigate the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest to export the diluted bitumen to foreign markets.
In 2012 and 2013, the National Energy Board held hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines in 17 communities across British Columbia. In December 2013 — despite overwhelming opposition from British Columbians and First Nations — the National Energy Board’s panel recommended in favour of the project, contingent on 209 conditions being met.
In April 2014, citizens of Kitimat voted against Enbridge Northern Gateway in a non-binding vote. Two months later, the federal government announced it had decided to approve the project.
Still, after 10 years on the table (Enbridge signed a deal with PetroChina more than a decade ago), Enbridge has no firm shipping agreements with oil producers and is widely believed to be dead in the water.
Shortly after taking office in October 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-affirmed his commitment to implementing an oil tanker ban on the north coast of British Columbia, which would effectively kill the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal.
In January 2016, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the province of B.C. “has breached the honour of the Crown by failing to consult” with the Gitga'at and other Coastal First Nations on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
Image credit: Kris Krug on Flickr.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
There just aren’t enough lawyers in B.C. to fight all the environmental battles First Nations, individuals and groups face on a regular basis in the province, according to University of Victoria lawyer Chris Tollefson.
As a solution, Tollefson, the founder of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, and a handful of legal experts and litigators recently launched a new public interest environmental law outfit that will take on some of the most powerful forces in B.C., from Malaysian-owned Petronas to government ministries to BC Hydro.
The new legal non-profit, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), will focus on environmental litigation, legislative reform and, as Tollefson describes it, “training up the next generation of young public interest environmental lawyers.”
Tollefson, who served as a former president of Ecojustice, one of Canada's most prominent environmental legal non-profits, said there is more work than existing organizations can handle.
That sentiment is echoed by Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC, and one of the centre's first clients.
“I think litigation is vital and it's so hard to move this government in any other way,” Peart told DeSmog Canada. “You can build up the wall of public noise as much as you like but litigation seems to be a lever they at least half listen to.”
By Chris Tollefson for IRPP.
The Trudeau government has recently announced a sweeping review process that could culminate in what has been described as “the most fundamental transformation of federal environmental law in a generation.” This review, among other things, will determine the fate of the controversial law that governs federal environmental assessments, known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA, 2012).
Ironically, CEAA, 2012, a statute that the Harper government radically revamped to be industry-friendly, nowadays has very few friends. Even key industry insiders admit that the legislation, aimed primarily at expediting the approval of major new resource development projects, has been a spectacular failure. Not only are many major environment assessments (EAs) that are underway under CEAA, 2012 stalled, mired in controversy, tied up in litigation (or all of the above), but more importantly, Canadians have lost trust in the way we assess and make decisions about these projects.
“First Nations save us again.”
That was the message of a text I received from a friend after they heard of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the Harper government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
And it’s true: First Nations have borne the social burden once again of calling out undemocratic, law-breaking government actions that threaten the climate, the environment and human health.
Alongside the many First Nations that brought a legal challenge against the Northern Gateway pipeline approval were several environmental organizations that brought attention to the ways the project threatened endangered species and marine life.
But it was the former government’s tragic lack of First Nations consultation that caught the court's attention.
This article originally appeared on the Dogwood Initiative website.
“Oil to tidewater.”
It’s an industry mantra happily adopted by politicians — and even some environmentalists. But ask yourself this: what happens when you pump more product into an oversupplied market? Answer: the price goes down.
Who benefits from cheaper crude oil? First, the customers — like China’s state-run heavy oil refineries. And later, competitors with lower overhead, like Saudi Arabia.
You’ve probably heard these twin arguments before:
The province of British Columbia and Enbridge Northern Gateway are being ordered to pay $230,000 in court costs to both the Gitga’at First Nation and Coastal First Nations after a January 2016 ruling found both parties failed to fulfill a legal obligation to consult with First Nations on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The B.C. Supreme Court found the province contravened consultation rules in 2010 when it signed an equivalency agreement that granted environmental decision-making authority for the pipeline to the federal government.
The January ruling was seen as a major vindication for coastal First Nations who felt the province failed to live up to its continual promise to work with and consult with First Nations communities along the pipeline route.
The awarded court costs have added to that feeling.
Enbridge will have to secure an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government if it wants to proceed with its Northern Gateway oil pipeline according to an order issued by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office on Friday.
Early on in the Northern Gateway process, the B.C. government signed an “equivalency agreement” with the federal government, giving Ottawa the responsibility for the environmental assessment.
However, a Supreme Court of B.C. decision this January found that the B.C. government acted improperly and that the province must still make its own decision about issuing an environmental assessment certificate.
This is a guest post by David Suzuki.
With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.
In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?
Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.
A new report from Oil Change International challenges industry’s common assumption that the continued production of oilsands crude is inevitable.
The report, Lockdown: The End of Growth in the Tar Sands, argues industry projections — to expand oilsands production from a current 2.1 million barrels per day to as much as 5.8 million barrels per day by 2035 — rely on high prices, public licence and a growing pipeline infrastructure, all of which are endangered in a carbon-constrained world.
As the report’s authors find, growing opposition to oil production — especially in the oilsands, which is among the most carbon intensive oil in the world — has significantly altered public perception of pipelines, a change amplified by the cross-continental battles against the Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, TransCanada Energy East and TransCanada Keystone XL pipelines.
According to the report’s authors, production growth in the oilsands hinges on the construction of these contentious pipelines because the existing pipeline system is currently at 89 per cent capacity.
In August 2014, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the trek to the tiny Gitga’at community of Hartley Bay, located along Enbridge’s proposed oil tanker route in northwestern B.C.
There, in the village of 200 people accessible only by air and water, he met with community elders and Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations.
“He came to Gitga’at because he wanted to make sure he was making the right decision in terms of Northern Gateway and being there certainly confirmed that,” Sterritt told DeSmog Canada on Tuesday.
“My confidence level went up immensely when Justin … visited Gitga’at.”
Two months before that visit, in May 2014, Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that if he became prime minister “the Northern Gateway Pipeline will not happen.”
With Monday’s majority win by Trudeau, Sterritt — who retired three weeks ago from his role with Coastal First Nations — says he is “elated” and “Northern Gateway is now dead.”
Starting today the federal government will face 18 separate challenges against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver.
A consolidated group of environmental organizations, one labour union and First Nations are fighting the approval of the project on the grounds that the federal government violated First Nations rights, failed to protect species at risk and did not consider the full impacts of an oil spill in its decision.
Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and counsel for appellant B.C. Nature, said the case demonstrates the importance of due process when making decisions on major infrastructure projects like oil and gas pipelines.
“This case has the potential to affirm how important it is to have a robust federal environmental assessment law that holds project proponents to account,” he said.
Challenges presented by First Nations appellants will be presented over the next two days, Tollefson explained, with environmental groups following. The trial will stretch over six days, the longest a case has ever been before the Federal Court of Appeals.