Canadian town says 'no' to Enbridge pipeline in vote
By Julie Gordon
KITIMAT, British Columbia (Reuters) - Residents of the British Columbia town of Kitimat voted against the Northern Gateway pipeline project in a blow to Enbridge Inc's efforts to expedite the flow of crude from Canada's landlocked oil sands to high-paying markets in Asia.
The final tally, which came after a month of election-style campaigning in the small town where the pipeline terminal would be built, was more decisive than expected, with 58.4 percent of residents voting "no" and 41.6 percent "yes".
While non-binding, Saturday's vote is likely to carry some weight with Canada's Conservative government, which is expected to decide in mid-June on the C$7.9 billion ($7.21 billion) project, the first major conduit for oil sands crude to Asia.
"My view is this sends a huge message. We who stand to benefit the very most from this project are saying 'no,'" said Patricia Lange, a member of Douglas Channel Watch, a grassroots environmental group that opposed the pipeline.
"It's a scar in the neck of the dragon. We might not have sent the dragon to death, but we are going to continue to battle."
If built, the Northern Gateway pipeline would carry some 525,000 barrels-per-day of crude from Alberta's oil sands across northern British Columbia to the Kitimat port, where it would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to energy-hungry Asia.
That would allow oil producers to sidestep the over-supplied U.S. Midwest, where Canadian crudes sell at a steep discount to benchmark prices, and tap directly into foreign markets.
But the proposed project has become a divisive issue in Kitimat and across Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia. Supporters say it will bring jobs and prosperity to the region; opponents say the benefits are not worth the risk of an oil spill along British Columbia's pristine northern coast. Continued...