The federal government now has the support of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) into the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. The feds are expected to make a decision regarding Enbridge Northern Gateway by July, 2014.
Although there wasn’t much news in the Dec. 19, 2013 outcome of the JRP process – that the project should proceed provided 209 conditions be met – it still dashed the faint hopes many held that the process would reflect their own firmly held views on the project.
Although no statistically relevant polling has been done specifically targeting Northern B.C. residents, it is not a stretch to say that there is significant opposition to the project among Northern B.C. communities and First Nations.
Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam reaffirmed LBN’s opposition to the Enbridge project during a recent Chief and Council meeting.
“I will fight the project based on Aboriginal Rights,” Adam said. “The way Enbridge has conducted itself has been awful. We have no agreements with them and no contact with them.”
Lake Babine Nation – whose traditional territory the Enbridge project would need to cross – is not the only First Nation in Northern B.C. unequivocally opposed to the project.
The Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents traditional chief and clan structures over more than 22,000 square kms of Northern B.C. is not only opposed to Enbridge, but to all pipeline proposals.
“We have been clear that oil and gas pipelines do not match our vision for our territory and for our grandchildren’s future,” said Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief John Risdale (Dini ze’ Na’moks). “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our territory from pipelines.”
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is confident that he speaks for the majority of Northern B.C. residents when he speaks against the JRP’s findings.
“I’ve always spoken out against Enbridge,” Cullen said. “In each of the last three elections I’ve received an increasing majority.”
“The court of public opinion has spoken, but the JRP wasn’t listening,” Cullen added.
For its part, Enbridge has announced that it will begin working towards satisfying each of the 209 conditions introduced by the JRP’s findings.
The JRP’s recommendation that the Enbridge project is, on the whole, in the interest of the majority of Canadians and should proceed, does not automatically mean the project will proceed.
The federal government must still weigh in on the matter, and is expected to reach a decision by July, 2014. The province also has five conditions which must be met before it will receive provincial approval.
Should the project receive federal approval, many First Nations have promised court challenges based on aboriginal title and the duty to consult.
“The JRP process simply isn’t designed to properly consider the full impacts of the pipeline on aboriginal rights which are protected by the constitution of Canada,” Adam said. “The federal government has gutted Canada’s environmental laws and streamlined the environmental assessment process to the detriment of all Canadians, but it has not taken away the constitutional protection given to our aboriginal rights. The JRP recommendations have made it clear to us that we are being forced to go to the courts to protect our aboriginal rights.”
The Village of Burns Lake (VBL) has maintained a neutral stance on whether or not to approve the pipeline proposal. Previously, the outcome of the JRP process had been said to be the missing bit of information needed before considering a council resolution.
“Given the decision by this non-partisan, expert panel to conditionally endorse the Northern Gateway project, our community will continue to engage with all our stakeholders, including First Nations to better understand the conditions the Joint Review Panel has imposed in order for the Northern Gateway project to proceed,” Strimbold said.
Enbridge is reviewing the attached conditions.
“Northern Gateway will be designed to protect B.C.’s unique natural environment with world-class spill prevention, response and recovery. And it will be a partnership with Aboriginal groups and communities. Already, the Northern Gateway Project has signed 26 equity partnership agreements,” said Enbridge executive vice-president of Western access, Janet Holder.
In a written statement provided by Enbridge, they claimed the JRP approval to be part of the process of working towards B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for pipeline approval.
The Northern Gateway Project is a proposed 1177 km twin pipeline system and marine terminal. The proposed project would transport 525,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil for export and import 193,000 bpd of condensate.