Northern Gateway pipeline recommended for federal approval, with conditions
Joint review panel says project in best interest of Canadians
CBC News Posted: Dec 19, 2013 1:08 PM MT Last Updated: Dec 19, 2013 3:36 PM MT
A joint review panel has recommended the federal government approve Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project.
The approval hinges on 209 required conditions, including developing a marine mammal protection plan, researching heavy oil cleanup and conducting emergency response exercises.
"After weighing the evidence, we concluded that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project," said the panel in its report.
The recommendation comes after 180 days of hearings in 21 communities in B.C. and Alberta.
The final decision, however, rests with the federal government, which has 180 days to decide. The government can approve or deny the application, but cannot change the conditions put forward by the panel.
However, it can request the National Energy Board to change the conditions.The $7.9-billion pipeline would take bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to the B.C. coast for tanker export to Asia. But the controversial proposal has pitted Calgary-based Enbridge against environmental groups and several First Nations.
The pipeline has also been a lightning rod in the debate over climate change and has raised concerns about the effects an oil spill would have on environmentally sensitive areas along the B.C. coast.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's office issued a statement after the approval, writing that the project would not be approved by the government unless it is safe for Canadians and the environment.
“The panel’s report represents a rigorous, open and comprehensive science-based assessment,” reads the statement.
“Now that we have received the report, we will thoroughly review it, consult with affected aboriginal groups and then make our decision. We also encourage everyone with an interest to take the time and review the report.”
The report issued today said while impacts of a large oil spill would be huge, the panel believes the conditions put on the project will help implement appropriate and effective spill prevention measures.
The panel was established in December 2009 by the National Energy Board and the federal environment minister. Its task was to assess the environmental, social and economic effects from construction and operation of the pipeline.
The B.C. government had told the panel it did not support the pipeline as proposed, and more than 130 aboriginal bands signed a declaration against the project.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford had said she hoped the panel would endorse the proposed pipeline as her province strives to diversify market access for the oilsands.
Both the federal NDP and Liberals have voiced opposition to the project.
Enbridge says construction could start in 2014 and be completed by 2018.