Northern Gateway asks for three-year extension

The Northern Gateway project is asking for more time from the National Energy Board.

The Northern Gateway project is asking for more time from the National Energy Board.

The 1,177-km pipeline to bring crude oil from Edmonton to Kitimat was approved by the National Energy Board in 2014 as long as the proponent, Enbridge Inc., could meet 209 conditions.

On Friday, Northern Gateway filed a request for a three-year extension from the National Energy Board. The project wants more time to get legal and regulatory certainty and to continue discussions with First Nations communities, as stated in the press release.

Residents of Kitimat and along the North Coast have opposed the pipeline and some groups have even challenged the project in court. The proponent stated that it needs more time to “advance dialogue with coastal communities.”

“Northern Gateway has changed. We are making progress and remain open to further changes. We believe this is the right course of action for Northern Gateway and the right thing to do as Canadians. We know this process requires time and we are committed to getting it right,” said John Carruthers, president of Northern Gateway.

Carruthers also said the project needed to build relationships with First Nations communities on the West Coast of B.C.

“While we had the right intentions, we should have done a better job of listening and fostering these critical relationships and developing our plans together as true partners,” he said in the press release.

Some of the changes to the project, since it received approval, include work with Aboriginal Equity Partners, a collaboration of 31 First Nations and Métis communities who have part ownership to Northern Gateway.

Ownership with First Nations and Métis has increased from 10 per cent to 33 per cent and enhanced benefits for their communities doubled from $1 billion to $2 billion.

The project is also working on a design with coastal First Nations and governments to establish a “best practice spill response capacity that reflects the unique nature of British Columbia’s North Coast making it safer for all vessels,” as stated in the press release.

The Aboriginal Equity Partner Stewards also commented on the project stating there is a misconception that there is no First Nation or Métis support for the pipeline.

“This is not true. In fact, support for our project has grown from 26 to 31 communities over the past two years and is continuing to grow.

“Our goal is for Northern Gateway to help our young people to have a future where they can stay in their communities with training and work opportunities,” the release stated.

One of the opponents to the Northern Gateway Project, the Coastal First Nations, state that Enbridge’s request for an extension has made it clear that only one First Nation group in B.C. signed onto the project.

Coastal First Nations chair Kelly Russ said the three-year extension request should be rejected as the original application will be more than 10 years old.

“They will no longer reflect the latest environmental conditions,” he said. “This is unacceptable environmental assessment practice and the baseline studies must be redone and updated.”

Russ also said he expects that the new federal government honours its commitment to impose a crude oil tanker ban on the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.

“The risk of crude oil tankers on the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii is unacceptable to our members and no one has yet demonstrated how to clean up a a spill of sinking bitumen.”