Here Are The Major Canadian Pipelines The Oil Patch Wants Built

Pipeline construction in British Columbia. (Gary Campbell For The Globe and Mail)

Pipeline construction in British Columbia. (Gary Campbell For The Globe and Mail)

By Christopher Adams in Analysis, Energy | Sept 22nd 2016

Several large Canadian pipeline projects are continuing to move through the approval process in the face of mounting opposition.

Although there have been setbacks, industry lobby groups are aggressively pushing back against arguments that their projects aren’t compatible with action on climate change.

Keystone XL was rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama, prompting a lawsuit. Trans Mountain is facing fierce opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders in B.C.. The Energy East hearings derailed after a National Observer report detailed private meetings between review panelists and a TransCanada consultant, former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

The latest development came Tuesday when proponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline said they will not appeal a Federal Court of Appeal decision in June to quash Ottawa’s approval of the $7.9-billion project. The federal government then announced it won’t appeal, either. The court had ruled the approval must be set aside because government had failed in its duty to consult with aboriginal people.

And on the land of two First Nations in Canada — the Mohawk in Montreal and the Musqueam in Vancouver — Indigenous nations across North America signed a historic pan-continental treaty alliance on Thursday against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.

The signatories want to block all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects affecting First Nations land and water. Those include TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, and two Enbridge projects — the Line 3 pipeline replacement and Northern Gateway.

As opposition mounts, here’s an update on the status of all major LNG and oil pipeline projects in Canada.

Northern Gateway

A look at the route of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry 525,000 barrels per day just northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. Graphic from Enbridge's Northern Gateway website.

A look at the route of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry 525,000 barrels per day just northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. Graphic from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway website.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would ship 525,000 barrels per day of oilsands crude from northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C.. Its goal is to sell Alberta crude to Asian markets. A parallel line would bring 193,000 bpd of toxic bitumen-thinning diluent in the opposite direction.

Northern Gateway has been hugely controversial. The idea of crude-oil laden supertankers navigating the choppy waters of the Douglas Channel on their way out to the Pacific is a non-starter for many British Columbians. The line also crosses tracts of unceded First Nations territory in B.C., which has many aboriginal groups — especially on the coast — staunchly opposed to it.

Until the June court decision, Enbridge held a federal permit to build Northern Gateway, granted in mid-2014. On Tuesday, the company urged the federal government to meet its constitutional obligations to meaningfully consult with First Nations and Metis to get the project back on track.

Energy East

A graphic shows the proposed route of TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Saint John, New Brunswick. Graphic from National Energy Board website in September 2016.

A graphic shows the proposed route of TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Saint John, New Brunswick. Graphic from National Energy Board website in September 2016.

TransCanada Corp., the same company behind Keystone XL, applied to the National Energy Board in October 2014 to build the Energy East Pipeline. The $15.7-billion project aims to ship 1.1-million barrels of Alberta crude a day across six provinces and 4,600 kilometres.

The pipeline would supply crude to import-dependent eastern refineries, as well as export landlocked Alberta oil to Europe and India. Energy East would repurpose existing natural gas pipe for about two thirds of the route and build new pipe through Quebec and New Brunswick.

Three days of National Energy Board hearings were held in August in Saint John, but hearings in Montreal the following week were postponed and then cancelled after protesters disrupted proceedings. They accused panellists of bias after reports published by National Observer revealed that two of them had met privately in January 2015 with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, a consultant for TransCanada Corp. at the time.

In early September, the three-member panel recused themselves. NEB chief executive Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier gave up their responsibility to appoint a new panel, instead leaving the job to the government. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has said the promised 21-month review process for Energy East could be “modestly” delayed as a new panel is chosen.

TransCanada says construction would begin shortly after approval, with the goal of shipping oil in 2021.

Keystone XL

Graphic depicting the route of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which has been mired in controversy since its initial application in 2008. Image from TransCanada website.

TransCanada applied for U.S. permission to build its Keystone XL pipeline in September 2008. The idea was to extend an existing cross-border pipeline to give oilsands crude a more direct route to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

At the time, TransCanada thought the XL segment would make its way through the regulatory process just as smoothly as the previous phases. It was wrong.

The stretch of pipe cutting a diagonal line from the Saskatchewan-Montana border to southern Nebraska became the focal point of the environmental movement. Debate over Keystone XL centred not only on the environmental impacts on the American Heartland in the event of a spill, but on its broader role in hastening climate change.

After a seven-year regulatory saga, U.S. President Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL last November. Now, TransCanada has set in motion a US$15-billion challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing it was treated inequitably. It has also launched a separate federal lawsuit seeking a declaration that Obama overstepped his constitutional power.

Trans Mountain

Kinder Morgan’s proposed route for the Trans Mountain pipeline project that would carry Alberta crude to tidewater in Burnaby, B.C. Image courtesy of Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain website.

The Canadian arm of U.S. energy giant Kinder Morgan is aiming to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. The existing Trans Mountain line currently has capacity to ship 300,000 bpd of various petroleum products from the Edmonton area to the B.C. Lower Mainland and Washington State.

The $6.8-billion project has faced stiff opposition from those who don’t want to see more crude-filled tankers moving through the Burrard Inlet. Protesters held up survey work on Burnaby Mountain late last year.

Kinder Morgan filed its regulatory application for the Trans Mountain expansion in late 2013. The National Energy Board hearing process for Trans Mountain has been highly criticized, with commenters and intervenors withdrawing from the process. The board has issued 157 draft conditions that Kinder Morgan must meet if the project is to be approved, and the company says that’s achievable.

In November, a report is due from a three-person federal review panel doing indigenous consultations. The federal government has vowed to decide whether or not to approve Trans Mountain before the end of December.

Pacific Northwest LNG

A detailed rendering of the Pacific Northwest LNG project, a combined liquefaction and export facility/pipeline project in Northeastern B.C. Graphic from the Pacific Northwest LNG project website.

The $36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project is a liquefaction and export facility and pipeline on northeast British Columbia’s Lelu Island. Led by Malaysia’s state-owned energy giant Petronas, the controversial project — which is still awaiting federal approval — would export B.C. LNG to Asian markets and would add an estimated $2.9-billion annually to Canada’s GDP. Petronas also estimates that, if approved, the project would generate up to 4,500 jobs during peak construction.

The Pembina Institute claims that the project could become the largest source of carbon emissions in Canada and that its construction would “seriously undermine” Canada’s commitment to emission reduction targets set in Paris late last year. If constructed, Pembina says the single project would take up as much as 87 per cent of B.C.’s 2050 allowed emissions under the provinces legislated target.

Construction would take around four years, with Petronas hoping to start exporting LNG to Asia by 2020 to 2021. A decision is expected in early October following a final report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

But this project is also facing some controversy due to recent reports of turmoil at Petronas, the Malaysia state energy company that is the lead shareholder of the project. The Vancouver Sun reported this week about a “jaw-dropping” audit showing that Petronas was “struggling with major safety and structural problems in its Malaysian offshore operations.”

Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre gas pipeline and LNG facility

Map of the Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre LNG pipeline which would ship natural gas from Vancouver Island to the Woodfibre liquefaction facility outside Squamish. Image from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission website.

Woodfibre LNG Limited is currently awaiting a final investment decision on its LNG processing and export facility just outside of Squamish, B.C. housed in the former Woodfibre pulp mill facility.

The $1.6-billion project received the federal stamp of approval earlier this year when Environment and Climate Change Canada said that the project is “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” Opponents of the project criticized the Trudeau government for approving the project, citing dangers to local aquatic wildlife and broken election promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Woodfibre LNG Limited estimates that the facility could export around 2.1-million tonnes of LNG per year to markets in Asia.

The provincial government also gave environmental approval to FortisEnergy B.C.’s Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project, which would see an additional 47 kilometre pipeline built to transport natural gas from Vancouver Island to the Woodfibre facility outside Squamish.

Line 9B

Map of Enbridge’s Line 9B expansions and reversal project, which would carry crude to Quebec refineries and boosting capacity by around 60,000 barrels per day. Image from National Energy Board website.

Enbridge obtained regulatory approval for its Line 9B reversal and expansion project in March 2014. The original Line 9 has been in the ground for four decades and had been running from Montreal to southwestern Ontario since 1998. But given shifting market dynamics, Enbridge decided to restore its flow to its original west-to-east configuration.

That would enable crude to get to Quebec refineries, like Suncor Energy’s facility in eastern Montreal. The project also involves boosting the line’s capacity to 300,000 barrels a day from 240,000 barrels.

Work on the project has been complete since the fall of 2014. The National Energy Board gave its blessing to start Line 9B last year and it is currently operational.

Line 3

Map detailing the route of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, which they will spend $7.5-billion on to replace aging infrastructure and nearly double the pipeline’s carrying capacity. Image from the National Energy Board website.

Enbridge received approval from the National Energy Board to expand and modernize its aging Line 3 pipeline on April 25, 2016. The replacement project, described as the Calgary-based pipeline company’s largest, is expected to double the amount of crude piped from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin to 760,000 barrels per day. The company will spend $7.5-billion to replace the 50-year-old pipeline infrastructure, nearly doubling the pipeline’s carrying capacity.

Although it already has presidential approval — the stamp that Keystone XL never received — Enbridge recently pushed its expected completion date back to 2019 due to other regulatory restrictions in the U.S.

-With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey and The Canadian Press’s Dan Healing.

National Observer


Northern Gateway Will Not Appeal Federal Court Decision On Pipeline

The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned approval of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project because Ottawa failed to consult adequately with First Nations. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project because Ottawa failed to consult adequately with First Nations. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

Court ruled Ottawa had not adequately consulted Indigenous peoples along project’s route

By Chris Hall, John Paul Tasker, CBC News, Sep 20, 2016

Northern Gateway will not appeal a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision that overturned Ottawa’s approval of the controversial pipeline project.

The court ruled in June that the federal government had not adequately consulted with Indigenous peoples who will be affected by the project, which is backed by the energy company Enbridge, and which would stretch from outside Edmonton to a marine terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

“We believe that meaningful consultation and collaboration, and not litigation, is the best path forward for everyone involved,” the pipeline’s president, John Carruthers, said in a statement.

“We believe the government has a responsibility to meet their constitutional legal obligations to meaningfully consult with First Nations and Metis.”

The former Harper government gave the go-ahead to the Northern Gateway project after a National Energy Board joint review panel gave its approval subject to 209 conditions.

But the government was supposed to meet a constitutional requirement to consult with Indigenous peoples following the NEB’s approval, something the Federal Court said was not properly done.

“We find that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity … to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue,” the ruling said. “It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal Peoples. But this did not happen.”

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has until Thursday to decide whether the government will appeal the decision or pursue an alternative scenario which could include launching full consultations with Indigenous peoples that would comply with the court’s ruling.

Then, the federal cabinet could make a decision to either reject or approve Northern Gateway based on those consultations or the project could be punted back to the National Energy Board for reconsideration.

Northern Gateway: Trudeau Government Expected To Launch New Talks With B.C. First Nations

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in B.C. last year, hiking the Grouse Grind on the North Shore during his victorious federal election campaign. Now, as prime minister, his government faces a difficult West Coast environmental issue with the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project across northern B.C. JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in B.C. last year, hiking the Grouse Grind on the North Shore during his victorious federal election campaign. Now, as prime minister, his government faces a difficult West Coast environmental issue with the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project across northern B.C. JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Peter O’Neil | Vancouver Sun‎, September 20, 2016

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is expected this week to launch a new round of consultations with northern B.C. First Nations on the controversial $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline.

The move would be in response to a June ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal that quashed the former Conservative government’s 2014 approval of the proposed pipeline from Bruderheim, near Edmonton, to Kitimat on the West Coast.

Ottawa is facing a court-imposed Thursday deadline to determine whether it will appeal, and is confronting complex legal and political questions surrounding that decision.

The June court decision found that the former government’s consultations with affected First Nations were “brief, hurried and inadequate.”

But the two judges writing for the majority on the three-person appeal panel estimated that a new outreach process would only require about four months of talks, or “just a fraction of the time” since Enbridge first proposed the project in 2005.

The government is facing “very difficult issues” in relation to the decision, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters Monday.

“We will make it in the time allotted to us by the Federal Court” of Appeal, he said.

One of the complicating factors is the government’s 2015 campaign promise to bring in a moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the northern B.C. coast.

Such a move would prevent the project from proceeding, though the government has never specified how long a moratorium — which by definition is temporary — would be in place.

The National Post reported earlier this year that the government hasn’t closed the door on the project if the proposed terminal was moved from Kitimat to Prince Rupert.

In the event of new consultations, the federal cabinet would have the option after the talks conclude to send the matter back to the National Energy Board, perhaps tasking the NEB to consider adding conditions to the 209 that the board has already imposed on the company.

The federal government would also have the option, after weighing the results of the consultations, to either approve or kill the project, the judges noted in their ruling.

The Douglas Channel at Kitimat, the West Coast terminus for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Douglas Channel at Kitimat, the West Coast terminus for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Enbridge, which also has the option of appealing the June decision, has refused to speculate on what it wants the government to do.

“We’re aware of the upcoming deadline, but we’re not able to speculate on what the government will or won’t do,” said spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht.

University of Victoria aboriginal law professor Chris Tollefson, who represented one of the environmental groups involved in the court case, said he doesn’t expect an appeal by either Canada or the company.

The process would take up to two years if Canada’s top court agreed to hear the case, and Tollefson said permission is unlikely given that the judges were simply following the Supreme Court’s direction to lower courts on Aboriginal consultation.

There has been speculation that a federal decision to do more consultations would be based on concern about a possible costly lawsuit if it doesn’t take that step.

Enbridge has said it’s spent roughly $500 million so far on the approval process, and some suggest the Crown’s failure to adequately consult could open the door to a successful court case seeking damages.

But Tollefson, noting that the Supreme Court is traditionally deferential when it comes to cabinet decisions, said Enbridge would have an extremely difficult time winning such a case.

“I think it would be an extraordinary precedent for government to be held liable for regulatory negligence here,” he said in an e-mail Monday.

“The proponent would have to show that if a constitutionally adequate consultation had occurred, Cabinet would have still been granted project approval, and the project would have proceeded.”

The government is also weighing the politics involved.

With Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announcing Sunday that Ottawa will impose a national carbon tax system if provinces can’t agree on their own, some analysts have said they believe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is laying the groundwork for a favourable decision in December on the $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan expansion of its pipeline system from Edmonton to Burnaby.

Killing Northern Gateway, when packaged with a national carbon tax, could provide Trudeau with the additional political cover he needs to convince British Columbians to accept the Kinder Morgan project over the objections of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, environmentalists and a number of First Nations.

Trudeau, when asked about pipelines, has always indicated he favours helping get Alberta’s bitumen to offshore markets.

But he always insists that any such effort be combined with steps to protect the environment and respect First Nations.

“One of the fundamental responsibilities of any prime minister is to get our resources to market,” he told the House of Commons in April.

“However, in the 21st century, getting those resources to market means doing it responsibly for communities, for indigenous peoples and for the environment.”


Northern Gateway Talks Excluded First Nations’ Governance Rights

Drummers play as First Nations chiefs and leaders are welcomed at the start of a news conference about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, B.C., on October 1, 2015. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Drummers play as First Nations chiefs and leaders are welcomed at the start of a news conference about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, B.C., on October 1, 2015. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Two First Nations fighting to overturn approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline project say federal officials refused to discuss their claim of decision-making power over ancestral lands.

Lawyer Cheryl Sharvit says the Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli are not asserting the right to veto resource projects on traditional territories in British Columbia’s Central Interior.

But she says the bands’ asserted authority to govern their lands should have at least been considered by the Crown during consultations on the $7-billion pipeline proposal from Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB).

Instead, the Crown excluded the issue from the talks, stating the question of control over First Nations’ territories would be better dealt with in the treaty process.

Eight aboriginal bands are in the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver arguing Canada violated its legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations before issuing conditional approval of the project.

The 1,200-kilometre twin pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the coastal district of Kitimat, for tanker shipment overseas.

Aboriginal People, Not Environmentalists, Are Our Best Bet For Protecting The Planet

Academic, author and activist David Suzuki. Photograph by: Mark Blinch , THE CANADIAN PRESS

Academic, author and activist David Suzuki. Photograph by: Mark Blinch , THE CANADIAN PRESS

By David Suzuki

Using DNA to track the movement of people in the past, scientists suggest our species evolved some 150,000 years ago on the plains of Africa. That was our habitat, but unlike most other animals, we were creative and used our brains to find ways to exploit our surroundings. We were far less impressive in numbers, size, speed, strength or sensory abilities than many others sharing our territory, but it was our brains that compensated.

Over time, our numbers increased and we moved in search of more and new resources (and probably to check out the Neanderthals with whom we crossbred before they went extinct). When we moved into new territories, we were an alien creature, just like the introduced ones that trouble us today.

George Monbiot of The Guardian makes the point that we can trace the movement of our species by a wave of extinction of the big, slow-moving, dim-witted creatures that we could outwit with even the simplest of implements like clubs, pits, and spears.

Our brains were our great evolutionary advantage, conferring massive memory, curiosity, inventiveness and observational powers. I can’t emphasize that enough. Our brains gave us a huge advantage and it did something I think is unique — it created a concept of a future, which meant we realized we could affect that future by our actions in the present. By applying our acquired knowledge and insights, we could deliberately choose a path to avoid danger or trouble, and to exploit opportunities. I believe foresight was a huge evolutionary advantage for our species. And that’s what is so tragic today when we have all the amplified foresight of scientists and supercomputers, which have been warning us for decades that we are heading down a dangerous path, but now we allow politics and economics to override this predictive power.

No doubt after we evolved, we quickly eliminated or reduced the numbers of animals and plants for which we found uses. We had no instinctive behavioural traits to restrict or guide our actions — we learned by the consequences of what we did. And all the mistakes that we made and successes that we celebrated were important lessons in the body of accumulating knowledge of a people in a territory. That was very powerful and critical to understanding our evolutionary success — it was painstakingly acquired experience that became a part of the culture. We are an invasive species all around the world, and I find it amazing that our brains enabled us to move into vastly different ecosystems ranging from steaming jungles to deserts, mountains to arctic tundra, and to flourish on the basis of the painful accumulation of knowledge through trial and error, mistakes, etc.

So it was the people who stayed in place as others moved on, who had to learn to live within their means, or they died. That is what I believe is the basis of indigenous knowledge that has built up over millennia and that will never be duplicated by science because it is acquired from a profoundly different basis (I wrote about the differences in a book, Wisdom of the Elders). The wave of exploration hundreds of years ago brought a very different world view to new lands — North and South America, Africa, Australia — based on a search for opportunity, resources, wealth. There was no respect for flora and fauna except as potential for riches, and certainly no respect for the indigenous people and their cultures. Of course, by outlawing language and culture of indigenous peoples, dominant colonizers attempt to stamp out the cultures which are such impediments to exploitation of the land. Tom King’s book, The Inconvenient Indian, argues very persuasively that policies are to “get those Indians off the land”.

I think of my grandparents as part of the wave of exploration of the past centuries. They arrived in Canada from Japan between 1902 and 1904. When they came on a harrowing steamship trip, there were no telephones to Japan, no TV, radio, cellphones or computers. They never learned English. They came on a one-way trip to Canada for the promise of opportunity. Their children, my parents, grew up like all the other Japanese-Canadian kids at that time, with no grandparents and no elders. In other words, they had no roots in Japan or Canada. To them, land was opportunity. Work hard, fish, log, farm, mine, use the land to make money. And I believe that is the dominant ethic today and totally at odds with indigenous perspectives.

Remember when battles were fought over drilling in Hecate Strait, supertankers down the coast from Alaska, the dam at Site C, drilling for oil in ANWR, the dam to be built at Altamire in Brazil? I was involved in small and big ways in these battles, which we thought we won 30 to 35 years ago. But as you know, they are back on the agenda today. So our victories were illusions because we didn’t change the perspective through which we saw the issues.

That’s what I say environmentalists have failed to do, to use the battles to get people to change their perspectives, and that’s why I have chosen to work with First Nations because in most cases, they are fighting through the value lenses of their culture.

The challenge is to gain a perspective on our place in nature. That’s why I have made one last push to get a ball rolling on the initiative to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in our constitution. It’s a big goal, but in discussing the very idea, we have to ask, what do we mean by a healthy environment. We immediately come to the realization that the most important factor that every human being needs to live and flourish is a breath of air, a drink of water, food and the energy from photosynthesis. Without those elements, we die.

So our healthy future depends on protecting those fundamental needs, which amazingly enough, are cleansed, replenished and created by the web of life itself. So long as we continue to let the economy and political priorities shape the discussion, we will fail in our efforts to find a sustainable future. I have been trying to tell business folk and politicians that, in the battle over the Northern Gateway, what First Nations are trying to tell us is that their opposition is because there are things more important than money.

David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are our best bet for protecting the planet, Special to The Sun June 8, 2015.



Is Northern Gateway quietly being shelved?

Enbridge is being very quiet about the Northern Gateway pipeline project. (Canadian Press)

Enbridge is being very quiet about the Northern Gateway pipeline project. (Canadian Press)

By Tracy Johnson | CBC News

Enbridge has so far sidestepped the worst of the energy downturn, earning $88 million in fourth quarter of 2014, and $1.1 billion for 2014 as a whole, more than double what it earned in 2013.

Enbridge’s CEO Al Monaco called 2014 a “successful year on many fronts.”

Monaco was talking about progress on several of the company’s smaller pipeline projects, like Line 9 between Ontario and Quebec, or Flanagan South in the U.S.

He wasn’t talking about the Northern Gateway pipeline project, which was approved last year by the federal government, subject to 209 conditions.

But since that June 2014 decision in Ottawa, things have been mighty quiet on the Northern Gateway front, with no mention of the pipeline in the Q4 earnings, nor in the end of quarter conference call, and only a page dedicated to the project in Enbridge’s 75-page year-end information form.

That raises the question: Is Northern Gateway being quietly shelved?

Opposition to Northern Gateway remains staunch in BC (The Canadian Press)

Opposition to Northern Gateway remains staunch in BC (The Canadian Press)

In its annual filing, Enbridge did say that Northern Gateway is going to be substantially more expensive than the most recent cost estimate of $7.9 billion, in part because of the cost of satisfying the 209 conditions imposed by the federal government. The company has not yet released the new cost estimate, but did say the earliest it will be in operation is 2019.

There are numerous hurdles to be overcome before then:​

  • Meet 209 conditions – fewer than 30 have been fully completed
  • Bring aboriginal communities onside – 26 of 45 have signed up
  • Deal with First Nations court challenges
  • Secure continued commercial support
  • Satisfy British Columbia’s conditions

Enbridge may not have decided

Michal Moore, director of energy and environmental policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, says it’s likely thatEnbridge itself doesn’t know if it can make Gateway happen.

“Keep in mind that at the end of the day they just may not know,” says Moore. “They’ve been posturing for a long time about this and the bottom line is that they don’t have all the answers that they suggest they do in public.”

Focus on smaller projects

In the earnings conference call, Guy Jarvis, Enbridge’s president of liquids and pipelines said that with the current opposition to pipelines, it’s easier to make incremental changes to the existing network to get oil flowing to U.S. ports.

“All of these involve relatively small, low cost, bolt-on projects that can be staged in increments as required to meet shipper needs,” said Jarvis.

The company also said in the call that it expects Keystone XL to be in operation in 2019 and for one of the West Coast pipelines to be operating in 2020. That would be either Northern Gateway or Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

It’s notable that it didn’t express any confidence Gateway would be the pipeline in operation, even though it is further ahead in the regulatory process and Kinder Morgan is facing a lot of opposition of its own.

At the same time, with the price of oil expected to trade below $80 US a barrel for the next few years, expansion of the oilsands will slow, lessening the long term demand for pipeline capacity.

“At the end of the day, is shipping crude oil anywhere but down to PADD 3 [the U.S. Gulf Coast] the answer?” says  Moore.

Enbridge is facing nine court challenges from BC First Nations (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robin Rowland)

Enbridge is facing nine court challenges from BC First Nations (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robin Rowland)

First Nations relationships remain troubled

But as we all know, the main problem continues to be Enbridge’s relationship with First Nations along the pipeline route. Although more than half have signed up, many of those who haven’t remain staunchly opposed to the project.

Nine court challenges against Enbridge have been merged into one case that is questioning both the reasoning for approval of the pipeline and Enbridge’s consultation with First Nations in B.C. That challenge is expected to go to hearing in the fall of 2015.

In the meantime, Northern Gateway’s spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht says that the company is still working on its relationship with First Nations and Métis groups in BC.

“Building more long-term meaningful partnerships with these communities is our priority right now,” says Giesbrecht.

Ownership shake-up

Late last year, the president of Northern Gateway John Carruthers said that the company is working on a new ownership structure, in which more control and ownership is given to First Nations along the route, leaving Enbridge as a partial owner and operator of the pipeline.

Ownership of Northern Gateway would be independent of Enbridge — possibly a limited partnership that would be governed by the pipeline’s energy company shippers, the aboriginal equity partners and Enbridge.

That ownership would allow more benefit to flow to the First Nations along the route, but also shifts the risk, says Michal Moore.

“They’ll get a little farther along, than they were going the other way. But you pile up all the uncertainties and you’ve got a risk exposure that’s probably more than the cost of the project.”

Two First Nations launch legal challenge over lack of pipeline consultation

First Nations protesters demonstrate against the Northern Gateway pipeline outside the Vancouver offices of oil giant Enbridge in 2012.
First Nations protesters demonstrate against the Northern Gateway pipeline outside the Vancouver offices of oil giant Enbridge in 2012.

By: Jason Payne | The Province

Two First Nations have launched a court challenge against the B.C. government, saying the province shirked its responsibility by failing to make a decision on the Northern Gateway project.

The Gitga’at First Nation and the Coastal First Nations say a proposed pipeline would put their coastal communities at risk of potential oil spills.

They argue the province signed an agreement to partner with the federal government without consulting them about the project in violation of their rights.

The First Nations say B.C.’s agreement with the National Energy Board meant it gave up power to review the project and impose tougher measures to protect the environment.

Coastal First Nations spokesman Art Sterritt says the province made a legal mistake by avoiding responsibility on the future of the project.

The Gitga’at have already asked the Federal Court of Appeal to recognize the band’s aboriginal title along the proposed tanker route where ships would carry oil from the pipeline.

Why First Nations Are Stopping Enbridge’s Tar Sands Pipeline

Screen-Shot-2014-08-01-at-10.11.18-AM (1)

August,1st, 2014, By Elizabeth Douglass

British Columbia’s First Nations have fought the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline that would cross their land for years, and they have no intention of letting up just because the federal government recently approved it. They’ve ignored the wishes of Canadian Prime Minister Harper, shrugged off oil industry promises of local jobs, and rejected offers of part ownership in what could be a lucrative and long-lived project.

In short, they’ve been impervious to the kinds of political pressure and financial enticements that routinely succeed in smoothing the way for oil-related projects in the United States. How come?

A big part of the defiance comes from the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of aboriginal groups in British Columbia that has no interest in allowing diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to pass through their territories or get shipped through their fishing grounds. The environment is too important to their culture, to their economy and to a succession of generations to come.

And because most First Nations in British Columbia never signed treaties ceding their lands or development rights to the Canadian government, they have been challenging projects in court—and winning. The latest and most significant court victory came in June, when the Canadian Supreme Court upheld aboriginal land titles and rights, and suggested that in places where land claims are not subject to treaties, First Nations may have de facto veto rights over projects on their territorial lands.

Art Sterrit (on right) on a fact-findingvisit to Florida after BP’s Gulf spill. “That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.”
Art Sterrit (on right) on a fact-findingvisit to Florida after BP’s Gulf spill. “That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.”

Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, has been a key player in the Northern Gateway saga. At 66, he’s a goldsmith, sculptor and carver of totem poles and masks. But in serving on a tribal council, then becoming a treaty negotiator, and then joining the Coastal First Nations, Sterritt is following a family history of civic duty and activism. His dad, who turns 101 in early August, is a chief. He’s also trying to make the world a better place for his 18 grandchildren.

In an interview with InsideClimate News, Sterritt elaborated on what’s driving the First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway and why they can’t be won over. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

ICN: What is the Coastal First Nations and why was it formed?

Sterritt: We’re an association of First Nations. We came together because of what the forest industry was doing. We were acknowledged by the provincial B.C. government as being the government in the region. Now we have ecosystem-based management practices so that you don’t log at a rate that will wipe out the forest.

All of our communities have a land use plan. We have a marine use plan. What that means is that we’re serious about our economy. We want to make sure that it’s self-sufficient based on what’s there, and that it doesn’t harm the environment—so it lasts forever.

ICN: Why is protecting the environment so important for Coastal First Nations?

Sterritt: The area that we live in represents 25 percent of the coastal temperate rainforest left on the planet. So this is a very, very significant area. It’s an amazingly beautiful area. Tourism is a huge, huge draw. So our communities are moving themselves toward renewable industries—industries that don’t destroy the environment. We have carbon offsets that we get out of the forest. As we protect the forest, there’s the ability to sequester carbon, which helps with the environment, and in return for that, there’s revenue coming in.

ICN: How did Alberta’s tar sands and the Northern Gateway project come into play?

Sterritt: We have invested, over the last 15 years, in excess of $400 million in this exercise [of planning for a sustainable economy]. We depend on the natural environment for the jobs that we have, and there’s over 30,000 jobs on the coast of B.C. Right in the middle of all this arrives Northern Gateway, a project which actually jeopardizes everything. All those things we’re doing, if you think about it, one oil spill, and all of those are over.

ICN: You don’t think the pipeline and oil industry would protect your environment?

Sterritt: You’re talking about an industry that doesn’t have a culture of cleaning up their mess. Their culture is in covering up their mess with dispersants. We’re still looking at what Enbridge did in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. They haven’t cleaned that up yet. They cleaned up 10-15 percent of the oil [from the Exxon Valdez] in Alaska. In the Gulf of Mexico, [BP] cleaned up something like six percent. They don’t have the technology to clean up a spill in the ocean. It doesn’t exist.


ICN: What about the promise of jobs and the prospect of an equity interest in the Northern Gateway project?

Sterritt: We’re not a bunch of poverty stricken, illiterate people. This is a highly developed society—a culture that’s sophisticated in terms of respecting the environment, recognizing what you need to do in order to maintain it, and with a sophisticated art form and languages and everything else. That’s what they didn’t realize. They just figured, oh we’ll flash a couple jobs and a couple bucks under their nose, and they’ll just jump up and down. When you have all that, and somebody comes along and offers you a few jobs, it’s just a joke. You’ll jeopardize more jobs than you’re creating.

ICN: What does it mean to have the Supreme Court of Canada recently uphold aboriginal territorial rights?

Sterritt: It’s been groundbreaking. What that means is that you can’t just ride roughshod over First Nations. They do have rights. They do have title. And the title and rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. Over the last 30 or 40 years, there have been over 200 court cases that First Nations have won where it lays out their right to fish, their right to hunt, their right to an economy, their right to their culture and their societies.

ICN: What is the Coastal First Nations’ position on other kinds of economic development?

Sterritt: We’re not against development. We are involved in industries that don’t have the potential to wipe us out. For First Nations, the first thing they deal with is the environment. If they look at a project and see that the project is going to do irreparable harm to the place they’ve lived in for tens of thousands of years, it’s not going to happen. If a project comes along that is not going to destroy what we already have, you’ve got a pretty good chance of the project moving ahead.

ICN: And you include liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects among those that could move ahead? 

Sterritt: We are actively involved in helping develop a responsible natural gas industry. Those ships are big, and they would disrupt some of our harvesting and fishing and stuff, so we’re working together to make sure that’s done properly. Are you emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere? Are you contaminating the local airsheds where our people live? If there are impacts, they have to be mitigated. That’s a pretty good formula for starting a conversation.

ICN: I heard that you went on a fact-finding trip to Louisiana and several other oil states along the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 after the BP Spill. What was the purpose?

Sterritt: We were in the middle of making a decision on whether or not we could support the Northern Gateway project. We had seen that the industry couldn’t clean up Alaska, and we figured if anyone could [clean up an ocean oil spill], we would see it there. That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.

ICN: You talk about an “oil culture” on the U.S. Gulf Coast and elsewhere. What does that mean?

Sterritt: That’s the culture that the oil industry is trying to introduce us to. It’s one that tries to create dependency from people that live in the region, and once they’ve created that dependency, they can do whatever they want.

If you look at those oil states, that’s what they’ve done. Some people, even some First Nations people, seem to think that somehow we have to become part of this oil culture. It’s not true. We don’t need it. We have a really amazing culture. We don’t depend on anybody but our environment. That’s what it’s about for First Nations.

Alberta is heading down that road, and they don’t have a plan. A group like Coastal First Nations—well, we have a plan. Our plan doesn’t include any industry that jeopardizes the plan.