Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

enbridge northern gateway

(Image credit: Rickz on Flickr)

The Enbridge Northern Gateway is a proposed pipeline and oil tanker project that would ship Alberta oilsands via Kitimat, British Columbia. 

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. 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 plebiscite. 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.

Eight First Nations are currently challenging the project's approval in federal court: Gitga'at, Gitxaala, Haida, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai'Xais, Nadleh Whut'en and Nak'azdli. Four NGOs and Unifor have also mounted their own court challenges.

Here's our news and analysis of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project:

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.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau and Art Sterritt walk on the boardwalk in Hartley Bay, B.C.

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.

Tim Hortons Coffee Cup

On the same day that Bill C51 was set for a final vote in the Senate, the Canadian internet erupted into a storm of angry tweets. The message was clear: you can take our freedom, but you can never tell our Timmies not to run ads for Enbridge.

Timmies is, of course, Tim Hortons coffee, the venerable Canadian institution whose coffee and donuts have become so inseparable from the Canadian identity that Prime Minister Stephen Harper once famously blew off going to the UN for a coffee at Timmies instead. Tim Hortons has exactly the kind of patriotic sheen to it that CAPP is hoping will rub off on its ‘Raise Your Hand’ campaign.

Last week, Enbridge pipelines announced on its blog that it would be showing its latest ads on Tim’s TV (the flatscreen televisions behind the service counter). Almost immediately, online activists seized on the opportunity.

SumOfUs, an organization that rallies public pressure to encourage companies to adopt sustainable business practices, encouraged Tim Hortons to cancel an advertising buy from Enbridge, the company trying to build public support for the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast. 

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

CRA charity audit charity chill, UVic, ELC report

The release of a University of Victoria study calling for updates to Canadian charitable law created quite a stir last week.

The study, prepared for DeSmog Canada, was covered by the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist, Canadian Press, Macleans, The Tyee, Yahoo! News and CFAX.

The report called for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to clarify rules around “political activities” — defined as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — and to provide a more generous limit on allowable policy advocacy in line with other common law jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand. It also called for the creation of a politically independent charities commission to remove the potential for political interference in audits.

The findings were raised in the House of Commons by Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, who stated the report “analyzes the alarming lack of clarity in the rules governing political activities for charities.”

Calvin Sandborn

A report released today by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre calls for sweeping reform of Canadian charitable law in line with other jurisdictions such as the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and England.

Current rules around “political activity” — defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — are confusing and create an “intolerable state of uncertainty,” the report says.

This has created a confused and anxious charitable sector and detracts from them carrying out their important work,” Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre, said.

The report — prepared for DeSmog Canada — comes as 52 charities are being targeted in a $13.4 million audit program launched by the federal government in 2012 to determine whether any are violating a rule that limits spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources. Those charities include Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, Ecology Action Centre and Equiterre.

A small, shy whale, may be one of the rarest marine mammals along the coast of B.C., but remarkably little is known about minke whales and the threats they face in the north-east Pacific, according to Jared Towers, research director with the Marine Education and Research Society.

Seldom-seen minke whales  unlike the splashier and much-studied killer whales and humpbacks found in B.C. waters  have no special protection, either in Canada or the U.S, and, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, more research is needed.

Information is essential if minkes are to be protected from hazards such as oil spills and vessel strikes, Towers said.

Numbers in B.C are likely to be about 388, with another 478 animals off the Washington, Oregon and California coast, Towers said.

The numbers are really much less than expected…Their numbers are probably much less than the number of killer whales,” he said.

The National Energy Board (NEB), Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, has come under tremendous public criticism over the last three years for limiting public participation in its review of major oil pipeline proposals. In recent years the board has denied hundreds of Canadians an opportunity to voice their concerns on projects like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 9.

TransCanada’s Energy East, Canada’s largest proposed oil pipeline, is the newest project to land on the NEB’s desk. Despite major barriers to participation in the public hearing process, Canadians are preparing to apply in droves, even if just for the opportunity to be officially rejected from the process.

We can’t sit back and we can’t afford the luxury of despair,” Donna Sinclair of North Bay, Ontario said. “We need to resist efforts to shut us out of the process.”

Sinclair, who was denied the opportunity to submit a letter of comment regarding the Line 9 pipeline project in 2013, plans on applying to participate in the NEB review process for Energy East.

Alberta Oil Magazine just published its National Survey on Energy Literacy, the culmination of 1,396 online interviews of a representative sample of Canadians conducted by Leger.

The results are particularly interesting coming from Alberta Oil, a magazine destined for the desks of the energy sector’s senior executives and decision-makers.

Summing up the survey’s findings about “The Issues,” Alberta Oil editors write that opposition to energy projects is “not just for West Coast hippies anymore.”

Indeed. There are quite a few nuggets in the survey’s findings that are probably causing a headache or two in Calgary’s corner offices this week. We round up the Top 5.

1) Opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is just as serious as opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline — if not more so, according to the survey. What’s more, the more highly educated citizens are, the less likely they are to support Trans Mountain or Northern Gateway. Hmph, maybe the anti-pipeline crowd isn’t all unemployed hippies after all?