The federal government’s Joint Review Panel comprised of representatives from the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has green lighted the construction of $7.9-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline project to bring Alberta crude oil to a port in Kitimat for export to Asian markets.
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However, the recommendation to approve the controversial pipeline project is tentative on the successful implementation of 209 required conditions.
Based on a scientific and precautionary approach to this complex review, the Panel found that the project, if built and operated in compliance with the conditions set out in its report, would be in the public interest.
The Panel also recommended that the Governor in Council determine that the construction and routine operation of the project would cause no significant adverse environmental effects, with the exception of cumulative effects for certain populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bear. In these two cases, the Panel found that cumulative effects as a result of this project and other projects, activities or actions are likely to be at the low end of the range of possible significance. The Panel recommended that these effects be found to be justified in the circumstances.
The Panel concluded that the environmental burdens associated with project construction and routine operation can generally be effectively mitigated and that continued monitoring, scientific research and adaptive management could further reduce adverse effects.
The Panel stated that “the environmental, societal and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant.” The Panel found that Northern Gateway had taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems. The Panel also found that, after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low.
The Panel found that “opening Pacific Basin markets is important to the Canadian economy and society.” The Panel also found that “the project would bring significant local, regional, and national economic and social benefits.”
After weighing all of the oral and written evidence, the Panel found that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project than without it.
The Panel’s conditions, which would be enforced by the National Energy Board, include requirements for Enbridge Northern Gateway to:
- Develop a Marine Mammal Protection Plan;
- Implement the TERMPOL Review Committee Recommendations;
- Prepare a Caribou Habitat Restoration Plan;
- Develop a Training and Education Monitoring Plan;
- Prepare an Enhanced Marine Spill Trajectory and Fate Modelling;
- Develop a Research Program on the Behaviour and Cleanup of Heavy Oils;
- Conduct Pre-operations Emergency Response Exercises and Develop an Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise and Training Program.
The decision on whether or not this project should proceed will be made by the Governor in Council. If this project is approved, the National Energy Board must issue its certificates of public convenience and necessity within seven days of the Governor in Council’s order.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a proposal to build and operate two pipelines and a marine terminal. The pipelines would run 1,178 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, where the marine terminal would be built.
One 914 mm (36 inch) outside diameter line would carry an average of 83,400 cubic metres (525,000 barrels) per day of oil west to Kitimat. The other line, a 508 mm (20 inch) outside diameter pipeline, would carry an average of 30,700 cubic metres (193,000 barrels) of condensate per day east to Bruderheim. Condensate can be used to thin bitumen for pipeline transport. The Kitimat Marine Terminal would have two tanker berths, three condensate tanks and 16 oil storage tanks. Costs for the project are estimated at $7.9 billion.
Source: Gateway Panel | Image: Jonathan Nafzger / Shutterstock