Pipe dreams

A federal environmental review panel has recommended Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline can proceed.

A federal environmental review panel has recommended Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, which would see heavy oil piped from Alberta to Kitimat around mountains, under forests and through rivers, can proceed — provided the company meets 209 conditions on environmental protection.

While admitting a large oil spill would have “significant” impacts to the environment, society and the economy, the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel came to the conclusion the benefits of a twin pipeline from northern Alberta to a proposed tanker facility at Kitimat outweigh the risks.

The announcement was fittingly made in oil-loving Calgary on Wednesday but judging by the initial reaction, the ruling doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing for Enbridge in this province.

Press releases denouncing the decision have already been issued by the New Democrats, First Nations, and environmental groups.

Coastal First Nations accuse the federal government of stripping the power and authority of the Joint Review Panel early in the the process, while the opposition is calling on Premier Christy Clark to protect B.C.’s economy and environment.

The Sierra Club even accuses the feds of delaying critical information on endangered humpback whales.

That being said the panel, which acknowledged there would be significant effect on some populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bears, ruled over all the “likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low,” the report states.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said approval by the federal panel meets one of its five conditions, but doesn’t change the province’s position against the pipeline until its other four are met.

They include satisfying legal obligations to consult and accommodate Aboriginal communities and developing “world leading” safety and spill response on land and at sea.

– Williams Lake Tribune/Advisor