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UPDATED: NEB cancels Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline stop in Bella Bella, First Nation to pull out of review

According to a press release on April 5th, “A number of Hereditary Chiefs and elders of the Nuxalk First Nation of Bella Coola have counseled their elected Chief and Council to withdraw as intervenors from the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel Process for the Enbridge Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project. They say the federal government has already predetermined its approval of the project.”

The press release further adds, “The Nuxalk are the second First Nation to pull out of the pipeline review process in recent months, while other nations have refused to intervene all together. The withdrawal is another sign that the federal government is mishandling its relationship with First Nations, including its statements last week that it will change the rules for the Enbridge pipeline hearings retroactively, which is unfair and will likely further compromise the regulatory review. Public hearings in the coastal community of Bella Bella, home of the Heiltsuk First Nation, were delayed after a peaceful community demonstration against the proposed Enbridge project with drumming and singing at the airport.”

In a surprise move, the NEB has decided to cancel it’s public hearing in Bella Bella today. As reported by the CBC, “A public hearing for the Northern Gateway Project has been unexpectedly cancelled after panel members were met by protesters at the Bella Bella airport in B.C. on Sunday afternoon. The review panel was scheduled to hold four days of hearing in the remote community to gather local concerns about the controversial proposal to build a crude oil pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.”

A large crowd had greeted the panel at the Bella Bella airport. Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilynn Slett told a community meeting that the review panel had sent a notice that it would not be proceeding with the sessions because of security concerns. Slett and a local filmaker and environmentalist insisted that the protests were not threatening anyone.

CBC also reports that North Coast NDP MLA Gary Coons arrived on the plane with the panel members and said all he witnessed was a peaceful gathering.

According to an NEB statement, “There are logistical issues that panel staff are currently working with the community leadership to determine the best way for the panel to receive oral traditional knowledge of the Heiltsuk Nation. The panel will announce further steps shortly,” said a statement released by Kristen Higgens.

On Sunday the Globe and Mail reported on the Bella Bella NEB stop, including the hunger strike of some students of Bella Bella community school, you can find out more on their facebook event page.

The Council of Canadians Comox Valley chapter recently helped to organize a rally attended by over 2,200 people outside of the hearings in their community.  As highlighted in a recent blog by Brent Patterson, chapter activst Gwyn Frayne reports, “We had over 2,200 people at our outside rally today (against the Northern Gateway pipeline). Hundreds of young people went viral on Facebook and came on bikes. Young artists made huge paintings of the Great Bear Rain Forest animals. The speakers were amazing. …The rain, luckily held off until the end of that. And then we went inside the neighbouring school, where over 500 watched a short film about oil and asked questions of our panel speakers. …We had busloads from down island and up island and carloads from Tofino. (Chapter activists) June Ross (from Nanaimo) and Richard Hagensen (from Campbell River) came.”

The changes introduced in Budget 2012 stands to fast-track the ongoing consultation process which had been set to finish in 2013. With the newly imposed 2 year deadline for environmental reviews and Minister Kent’s statement that this will be applied retroactively, cbc reports this could mean these hearings may come to a close this May. This has incited frustration and anger from impacted Indigenous communities and environmentalists with calls for clarity on how Budget 2012 changes will impact the Enbridge Northern Gateway hearings. For more energy and climate change analysis of Budget 2012, see my earlier blog.

The Council of Canadians would reject any attempt to shorten these hearings. The Council of Canadians continues to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.  Our new No Pipelines! No Tankers! campaign targets this pipeline, as well as the Kinder Morgan Transmountain expansion and Trans Pacific Trails pipelines. These pipelines:

  • Increase the unsustainable expansion in the tar sands and fracking for shale gas.
  • Undermine local communities’ right to say “no.”
  • Wreak massive environmental damage by crossing hundreds of salmon-bearing rivers and streams, the Great Bear Rainforest and mountainous and landslide-prone land where spills could spell ecological disaster and affect the livelihoods of those living nearby.
  • Increase tanker traffic and the risk of a spill in B.C.’s ecologically sensitive coastal waters.

TAKE ACTION: No Pipelines! No Tankers! April 22 Earth Day Rallies

The Council of Canadians issued a call to action for No Pipelines! No Tankers! rallies on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2012. To read the call to action and to get involved, visit here.  The call to action is endorsed by Amnesty International, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Wolf Coalition, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Check Your Head: The Youth Global Education Network, Greenpeace Canada, Hospital Employees’ Union, Indigenous Environmental Network, Leadnow.ca, Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre, Tanker free BC.

From the April 22nd No Pipelines! No Tankers! call to action:

“The Harper Government has suggested that the opposition to Enbridge’s proposal is being made by a small minority of people in Canada, foreign interests, or by “some” Indigenous communities. The government is ignoring the “Save the Fraser Declaration,” which has been signed by more than 100 Indigenous communities. Opposition to the pipeline proposal has also been expressed by the Union of BC Municipalities and Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers City Councils. There is also growing opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and to Apache’s gas pipeline proposal as communities are becoming more aware of the devastating environmental and social impacts pipeline construction will bring.

In the spirit of the global Occupy movement, it is time for us to put aside our e-mail and social networks, take a pause from writing letters and signing petitions, and make our opposition visible by collectively taking to the streets! Let’s show Harper and his corporate partners that the issue is not foreign-funded environmental groups. We all need to stand up to government and Big Oil and Gas industries that put profit ahead of the interests of people and the environment. We hope you will join us on April 22 as we join together to say “No Pipelines, No Tankers!”