Enbridge sees native support for Gateway pipeline

Fri Dec 2, 2011 6:30pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones

TORONTO (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc expects to win support for its C$5.5 billion ($5.4 billion) Northern Gateway oil pipeline from a majority of native communities along the proposed route based on current negotiations, an executive said on Friday.

The company has signed deals with some aboriginal groups for an overall 10 percent equity stake in the project, which would carry oil sands-derived crude to the West Coast from Alberta, Enbridge Vice-President Janet Holder said during a conference call to discuss one agreement.

But she declined to say how many deals it has in hand, citing confidentiality agreements.

"Based upon current negotiations, we believe we have majority support from First Nations along the right-of-way," Holder said during a conference call with media to discuss one chief's decision to support the project, aimed at opening up Asian markets for Canadian oil producers.

The developments came one day after more than 60 aboriginal communities said they were uniting to oppose oil pipelines across the Pacific province of British Columbia as well as increased tanker traffic in coastal waters, citing fears of oil spills.

Also on Friday, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told Reuters he believed deals could be reached with native Canadians that would allow a pipeline to the coast, but conceded it would not be easy.

The industry is banking on a new pipeline to the coast to move crude produced in the vast Alberta tar sands markets in Asia as a way to lessen its dependence on the United States, which is now virtually its only export customer.

Regulatory hearings into Northern Gateway are slated to start in January.   Continued...