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NEWS: Transport Canada okays Northern Gateway tanker traffic off BC coast

CBC reports, “Transport Canada has ‘no regulatory concerns’ with Enbridge’s proposed marine operations for the Northern Gateway pipeline, clearing the way for supertankers to carry Canadian crude across the Pacific. In a statement issued Thursday, Transport Canada said it has finished its review of the proposed tanker traffic that would sail through waters off B.C.’s North Coast, taking crude from the Alberta oilsands to overseas markets in China. …The marine operations review was signed off on by Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada.”

Northern Gateway involves two 1,200-kilometre underground pipelines. One pipeline would move 525,000 barrels a day of bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands region to Kitimat on the coast of the Pacific Ocean (to then be transported by 225 super tankers a year to Asia with a third to a half going to the United States), the other would move 193,000 barrels a day of condensate, which is used to dilute the bitumen from the tar sands so that it can flow through the pipelines. “The (National Energy Board) joint review panel will consider Transport Canada’s study of the supertanker marine route when making its recommendation on the proposed pipeline.” The three-member panel is expected to release its environmental assessment in the fall of 2013 and make its final decision on the project around the end of 2013. If approved, it is expected that the pipeline would be functional by 2016-17.

In 1972, the Trudeau government banned tanker traffic through the coastal waters north of Vancouver Island and later extended that to include all offshore oil and gas activity. In 2004, the Chretien government completed a public review of those moratoriums and maintained those bans. But in 2009, the Harper government concluded that the moratorium on oil and gas activity did not extend to tanker traffic and that the moratorium was a cabinet order, not a legislative requirement, and had expired. NDP Member of Parliament Finn Donnelly has proposed in the House of Commons a private members bill C-211, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (prohibition against oil tankers in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound). If passed (though not likely with the Harper majority government), the bill would effectively kill the Northern Gateway pipeline.

And while Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada see no regulatory concerns, when asked about the possibility of an oil spill given this amount of tanker traffic, Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel has stated, “Can we promise there will never be an accident? No. Nobody can.”

The CBC highlights, “Northern Gateway has attracted fierce opposition from First Nations, environmental and other groups who fear an oil spill from the pipeline itself or from tankers sailing through narrow coastal channels could cause grave ecological harm.” It is believed that Indigenous opposition, a possible Supreme Court challenge, the provincial election in British Columbia, and mass direct action will be the key strategies to stop the Northern Gateway pipeline and the tanker traffic, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13200.

A few highlights of the Council of Canadians opposing Northern Gateway:
1- In late-March, the Comox Valley chapter will be presenting to the joint review panel when it is in Courtenay, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13044.

2- In January, Maude Barlow wrote, “Proponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that would ‘punch a hole in the Rockies’ to carry this oil to western ports for Asian export should be put on notice: The powerful coalition of community, environmental, labour and justice groups that came together across the Canada-US border to stop Keystone in its tracks is on the move. Under the leadership of the First Nations people along the pipeline’s proposed path, this growing peoples’ movement will take great heart from this victory. The Gateway will never be built”, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13190.

3- Also in January, Postmedia newspapers across the country reported on 73-year-old Montreal chapter activist Barbara Barclay and her concerns about the pipeline, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13044.

4- In August 2011, BC-Yukon organizer Harjap Grewal joined with the Unistoten Clan of the Wet’suwet’en at their annual camp to build opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10196. The construction of a cabin – directly in the path of the proposed pipeline – was completed at that time.

5- In May, Council of Canadians organizer Scott Harris attended a protest against the pipeline at the Enbridge annual general meeting in Calgary, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=9035.

6- In April, the Council of Canadians helped to host a public forum at the Rhizome Cafe in Vancouver featuring Toghestiy, hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu (Fireweed) Clan, Mel Bazil, Lhe Lin Liyin (the Wet’suwet’en Warrior Society) co-founder, and Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en (People of the Headwaters) spokesperson, speaking about their resistance to this pipeline through their territory, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6513.

7- In September 2010, Grewal and Board members Pina Belperio and Garry John demonstrated in front of the hotel where Enbridge were hosting a cocktail reception to bolster support for the pipeline during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual general meeting, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4134.

8- In April 2009, we first expressed our opposition to the pipeline and joined with other organizations to call for a public inquiry into Northern Gateway, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=462.