Enbridge clings to Gateway plan despite opposition

Wed May 9, 2012 5:55pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon and Scott Haggett

TORONTO/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc, Canada's No. 2 pipeline company, reported a 14 percent jump in quarterly earnings on Wednesday and said it remains committed to building the controversial C$5.5 billion ($5.5 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline despite fierce opposition from communities along the route.

At its annual meeting in Toronto on Wednesday, the Calgary-based company was greeted by protesters from environmental groups and from some of the British Columbia aboriginal groups that have staunchly opposed the project over worries that oil spills could contaminate their water supplies.

If built, Northern Gateway would carry 525,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to a deepwater port at Kitimat on the British Columbia's Pacific Coast.

"We are the wall that will stop this pipeline dream," said Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia. Thomas traveled to the meeting with other protesters on a train journey organized by the Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of British Columbia First Nations opposed to the project. "We've looked at it and made our decision," Thomas said.

The line, which Enbridge expects to be in service by 2017, would allow Canadian oil producers to tap high-paying Asian markets. It has the backing of the Canadian government, which has said the project is in the national interest even as regulatory hearings proceed.

Despite protests by native groups, Enbridge Chief Executive Pat Daniel said he is certain he can win the backing of aboriginal communities, which are known as First Nations.

"The project is so much in Canada's national best interest that we're committed to working with First Nations that are presently opposed, to bring them onside," he told reporters following the company's meeting, where he faced questions from the line's opponents. "Even (after) the meeting, I've chatted further to try to find some sort of common ground, so that we can make this a win-win for First Nations, for communities along the right of way, for all of Canada."

Enbridge is offering the First Nations a 10 percent equity interest in the line. Daniel said that 22 of the 45 communities along the line's 1,170 km (730 mile) route have accepted the offer but did not offer details.   Continued...

Nadleh Whut'en Chief Martin Louie (R) joins protesters outside the Enbridge Inc. annual general meeting of shareholders in Toronto May 9, 2012. The Yinka Dene Alliance is comprised of First Nations members who are opposed to Stephen Harper government's stated intention to push through with the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers project, in violation of First Nations' constitutionally-protected rights. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese