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.
In November 2016, Trudeau announced his government would not approve Northern Gateway, saying: “The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic.” In the same announcement, Trudeau said a legislated ban on oil tankers on B.C.'s north coast will be implemented in 2017.
Image credit: Kris Krug on Flickr.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
If you read any commentary in the wake of Trudeau’s pipeline approvals, you might have come across the sentiment that pipeline opponents are “environmental NIMBYs” and “angry mobs” who are “stuck in bondage to strange ideologies…eyes ablaze with truth oil,” having “demolished trust in agencies.”
Conversely, pipeline proponents are “realistic” and “rational,” able to offer up “informed discussion and courtesy” due to their nuanced understandings of economics and deep respect for regulatory processes.
“In the current political climate, if you disagree with an economic model or the critical assumptions underlying it you court the risk of being labelled an extremist or emotional, or simply unqualified to participate in the debate,” says Jason MacLean, assistant professor of law at Lakehead University and author of two recent Maclean’s essays on climate policy.
The B.C. government has refused to exercise its authority to order a provincial environmental assessment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, instead opting to rely on a report produced by the federal National Energy Board (NEB) that recommended approval of the project.
This means the province’s decision on the project — which would triple the amount of oil shipped through Vancouver — will be made using a Harper-era assessment heavily criticized for having no cross-examination of evidence and failing to assess cumulative effects, marine oil spills and greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a government that say they’re standing up for British Columbians and when they had a chance legally to protect British Columbians with a made-in-B.C. environmental assessment they passed the buck, accepted Stephen Harper’s process and let down British Columbians,” said George Heyman, the NDP’s environment critic.
The federal government has to decide whether to approve the project by Dec. 19 — but the province also has to make its own decision on whether to grant an environmental assessment certificate.
Since the Liberals formed government last November, Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipeline have lobbied Ottawa an astounding 86 times, federal lobbying reports reveal.
Fifty-one of those meetings have taken place since August — which, funnily enough, is around the same time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started backtracking on his commitment to ban oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast, a policy that would leave Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal dead in the water.
Since October last year, representatives from Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipeline met with representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office eight times, Transport Canada 10 times, Fisheries and Oceans Canada 10 times, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 12 times, Natural Resources Canada 31 times, and mostly Liberal Members of Parliament 39 times to name just a few.
On June 23, the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the Harper government’s approval of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on account of failing to properly consult with adversely affected First Nations.
Many environmental and Indigenous groups cited the ruling as a win, but buried in the decision is a legal interpretation that upholds former Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s changes to environmental assessment law in the country.
Some argue this interpretation of the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) will undermine the ability for the public to challenge the legality of environmental assessment reports for future projects, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.
Dear Will and Kate,
Welcome to beautiful British Columbia!
You are getting a pretty epic tour this week — from Victoria and Vancouver to Bella Bella (sorry about the rain) and Haida Gwaii. All of us watching the photo-ops are pretty jelly to be honest.
Here’s the thing though: I’ve noticed you’re hearing plenty of platitudes about “protecting the environment” from our good-looking leaders, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
I know you’re smart people, so I don’t want you to be fooled by their looks — or their words.
Don’t get me wrong: B.C. truly is a glorious place — the type of place you can fly over in a seaplane and easily think the wilderness will never end.
But it’s also one of the world’s last frontiers and the race is on to cut down our old-growth forests, to send more oil tankers into our ports, to build natural gas plants in our salmon estuaries and to flood our rivers for megadams.
Here are a few things I thought you ought to know about B.C. (and which I’m doubtful you’ll hear from Justin or Christy).
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.