UPDATE 2-Canada approves Enbridge pipeline to West Coast
(Adds company CEO comment, background)
By Julie Gordon and Randall Palmer
VANCOUVER/OTTAWA, June 17 (Reuters) - The Canadian government approved the construction of Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline on Tuesday, setting the stage for a barrage of lawsuits and demonstrations by environmental and aboriginal groups opposed to the project.
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford announced the decision in a statement that was widely expected. He said approval of the proposed pipeline, which would link Alberta's oil sands with a Pacific port, was contingent on Enbridge meeting more than 200 conditions set out by a regulatory panel.
"We're pleased with the decision and we think it's an important milestone for Gateway and Canada, but we still have some work to do," Enbridge Chief Executive Officer Al Monaco told reporters.
Leaders of the two main opposition parties in the House of Commons condemned the decision and vowed to stop the project if victorious in next year's federal elections.
Monaco said it would "take about a year, maybe a bit longer" to meet the conditions required before construction could begin.
Much of that work is around gaining support from aboriginals living along the 1,177-km (731-mile) route, which will cross hundreds of kilometers of wilderness and mountain ranges, mostly in the Pacific province of British Columbia. Some are fiercely opposed to the line crossing their territories.
The company says it has the support of 26 aboriginal communities. Of those, the majority are in Alberta. Just 11 of 27 eligible communities in British Columbia have signed on. Continued...