The federal government rejected Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway oil pipeline last week.
It’s the final nail in the coffin for the Enbridge project, which was widely considered dead in the face of widespread opposition from northwestern B.C. First Nations as well as the B.C. government.
Enbridge proposed the construction of a 1200-km twin pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s coast, passing directly through Burns Lake.
Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam, who has been opposed to the project since it was first proposed in 2005, said the announcement was “very good news.”
“I’m very happy about this as it was the wrong project and it was done wrong in the first place,” he said.
Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George was also pleased with the announcement.
“This has been a very long battle against the bitumen project that most First Nations were against,” he said. “They lost court cases and still tried to push the project forward.”
“This is a great day for everyone who fought so hard against the project and the battle is finally over,” he added.
Although the Burns Lake council has been neutral on Northern Gateway, Acting Mayor John Illes said he was relieved that a decision has finally been reached.
“[Now] we can use the staff and council time that had been involved in reviewing and commenting on this project towards other efforts,” said Illes.
Skeena Bulkley-Valley MP Nathan Cullen said the federal government’s decision to nix the pipeline was not only the right choice – it was the “only choice.”
“Over 130 First Nations, the province of B.C., and Canada’s largest private sector union have all opposed this project,” say Cullen. “It isn’t a question of the environment against jobs – it’s a question of right against wrong.”
But not all MPs in the region share Cullen’s view.
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer released a statement saying he was “concerned” with Northern Gateway’s dismissal, saying the pipeline would have added 4000 construction jobs and at least 1000 long-term jobs in British Columbia.
”I am disappointed that the Northern Gateway project was rejected in spite of 209 conditions and previous approval,” said Zimmer. “Unfortunately this decision seems to be based more on politics than on the actual science-based evidence that the National Energy Board was tasked to provide.”
Enbridge’s $7.9-billion proposal had been conditionally approved by the former Conservative government in 2014, but that green light was overturned by a federal court ruling that the new Liberal government had already decided not to appeal.
The court had found Ottawa failed to meaningfully consult affected First Nations along the route before approving the project.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the Liberal government will also fulfill a campaign promise to legislate a moratorium on crude oil tanker shipments on B.C.’s north coast.
Cullen expressed cautious optimism about the tanker ban, saying the announcement was accompanied by “very few details.”
“The devil is often in the details,” said Cullen. “We’ll have to wait to see the actual legislation next year.”
In addition, the federal cabinet also agreed to accept Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin the 60-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline to Burnaby. Trudeau said the decision was based on “rigorous debate, on science and on evidence.”
Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion project would result in a seven-fold increase in tankers running through Vancouver harbour, carrying much more diluted bitumen than in the past.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was “profoundly disappointed” with the decision, calling it a “big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy.”
Trudeau noted that Kinder Morgan’s proposal is the twinning of an existing pipeline that has been in operation since 1953.
– With files from Jeff Nagel