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enbridge



First Nations Victory Could Impact Future Pipelines

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Big news – A BC Supreme Court ruling yesterday has set the Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline project back a few steps. The court ruled that the BC government failed in their duty to consult First Nations when they signed an equivalency agreement regarding the assessment of environmental and social impacts of Northern Gateway.

The agreement that BC signed effectively waived the province’s responsibility to do an environmental assessment of Northern Gateway, putting the final say in the hands of the National Energy Board (NEB). Gitga’at First Nation and the Great Bear Initiative Society – representing coastal First Nations – challenged the province in court when they were not consulted prior to this agreement.

Where does that leave Northern Gateway?

The Supreme Court has deemed the equivalency agreement invalid for Northern Gateway. That means that although the NEB has approved the project, BC is now obligated to carry out a full environmental assessment and must consult with and accommodate the needs and concerns of First Nations. This essentially brings the project back to the beginning, though the province does not agree with that sentiment: Justice Minister Suzanne Anton has stated there is no need to duplicate the review process.? We will see how this rolls out in the coming months.

This will be an interesting challenge for Enbridge, the project proponent, as the clock is ticking on them meeting the 209 conditions laid out by the NEB, while at the same time attempting to secure contracts for the bitumen. This all speaks to the uncertainty of the pipeline project, and the overall challenges facing companies who want to extract and transport bitumen across our province.

While the company is stating that it is simply a ‘jurisdictional issue’ between the federal and provincial governments, they are well aware that statement belies the actual challenges that lie ahead – both in terms of process, as well as meeting the needs and expectations of policymakers and stakeholders.

How does this affect the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP)

Not only is this ruling a significant setback for Northern Gateway, it could mean changes for future pipeline projects, including the Trans Mountain expansion. The ruling affirms our provincial government’s duty to consult with First Nations, and it will also apply to the province’s obligation to conduct assessments in relation to five other projects, including the Trans Mountain Expansion. It is unclear yet if the equivalency agreement will also be voided for the TMEP, but it is perhaps the clearest indication yet of the importance of First Nations engagement in these reviews, and in the development of all industrial projects in the province which have a potential impact on First Nations.

Hopefully a diligent environmental assessment, as well as a revised National Energy Board and review process will be the norm for all energy projects as we continue to move towards a responsible, forward-looking and prosperous economy in BC.

 

CRED reacts: must see real economic assessment before federal “pipeline push”

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On September 12th the federal government announced a new strategy to garner support in BC for the development of new oil pipelines.

In response, CRED is calling on the federal government to do a full assessment into the economic risks of new oil pipelines before pushing for their approval.

If the government is serious about protecting the long-term prosperity of Canadians, there needs to be a real consideration of whether new oil pipelines could hurt more jobs than they create. Over 80% of British Columbians work in the service sector – they need to know that their jobs aren’t at risk of similar impacts as seen after oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere across North America.

Meeru Dhalwala, co-owner of celebrated local restaurants Vij’s, Rangoli and Shanik and CRED advisor, says:

Tourism is a key source of income for our BC economy, particularly in Vancouver.?I’ve read much on both sides of the argument and I am not at all convinced that the relatively few permanent jobs created by new oil pipelines are worth the massive risks–the most important risk being a major and expensive oil spill that would devastate our waters, wildlife and economy.”

UBC economist and CRED advisor Dr Rashid Sumaila echoes the need for a robust, independent cost-benefit analysis:

Any decision about whether to approve a new pipeline in BC needs to weigh economic costs against the benefits, especially for those of us who live and work along the pipeline and tanker routes.

How might a new pipeline impact the brand of Vancouver? How would it affect the price of gas in the lower mainland? If a significant spill were to occur, how many jobs would be lost? How much would an oil spill cost to clean up and who would pay? All of these questions need to be carefully considered before sending delegates to BC to campaign for approval.