A decision by the provincial government not to support the current Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal comes as good news to at least two local community leaders.
The B.C. government made its final written submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel, Friday, May 31.
In the submission, the province states that it cannot support the project as presented to the panel because Northern Gateway has been unable to address B.C.’s environmental concerns.
“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”
The Williams Lake Chapter of the Council of Canadians is encouraged by the B.C. government’s decision, said member John Dressler.
“It demonstrates that when all of the values are considered it is not possible to conclude that the Enbridge pipeline proposal would be good for B.C. and the people of the entire province.”
Local resident Jenny Noble echoed Dressler saying B.C.’s rejection gives her hope that environmental safety is finally being placed ahead of short-term corporate profit.
“It’s no longer good enough for industry to say “Trust us, we’ll take care of toxic spills on land and water (even though we can’t tell you how we’ll do it, and by the way you’ll have to pay for it.). Taseko, take note,” Noble said.
She also said the fact B.C. has made respect for First Nations treaty rights a pre-condition for environmental approval is laudable.
“May it signal the dawn of a new, enlightened era of justice among neighbours.”
Following the announcement by the Ministry of Environment Friday, BC NDP leader Adrian Dix issued a statement saying the announcement was welcome news, but a case of too little, too late.
“The B.C. Liberals signed away decision-making authority to Ottawa in 2010 and that has not changed,” Dix said. “We know Ottawa continues to support the project, so saying ‘no’ today is a toothless gesture and the Liberals know it.”
Dix suggested if the Liberals had any interest in actually stopping the pipeline from being built, they would withdraw from the agreement that gives Ottawa the only authority for approval of the pipeline. “The B.C. Liberals avoided taking a position on this project for years. Even with this submission, the final say rests with Stephen Harper. Only after intense pressure from New Democrats, environmentalists, First Nations, and communities concerned about our coast and our economy did the Liberals finally decide to oppose the project.”
Enbridge Northern Gateway vice-president Janet Holder said Friday the province’s position is not the end of the discussion.
“The five conditions cannot be fully met until the end of the Joint Review Panel process,” Holder said. “We are working hard to meet the conditions and earn the confidence of the government and the people of B.C.”
Ministry staff evaluated the 192 conditions proposed by the Joint Review Panel, the federal agency that will make a recommendation for permits to Ottawa next fall. The B.C. government and Northern Gateway officials will give their final oral arguments to the panel when hearings resume in Terrace on June 17.
Enbridge has argued that its submissions to the federal panel included 7,000 pages of technical reports and nine separate witness panels have answered every environmental question put to it. The panel has conducted 69 days of cross-examination of company officials by B.C. and other representatives.
Lake said the B.C. government is not opposed to heavy oil pipeline projects in general, such as the pending application to twin the 60-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to port and refinery facilities in Burnaby and Washington state.
– With files from Tom Fletcher