Canada regulator urges approval of oil-export pipeline

Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:15pm EST
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By Scott Haggett and Julie Gordon

CALGARY/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian regulators urged the government to approve the country's first overseas oil-export project on Thursday, concluding that Enbridge Inc's C$7.9 billion (US$7.4 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline plan posed little risk to the environment if the company complied with some 200 conditions.

Two years after a panel of environmental and energy regulators began hearings into the project, it sided against the line's many opponents and recommended the completion of a project that would allow Canada to expand sales of crude extracted from its oil sands to Asia.

Starting near Edmonton, Alberta, Northern Gateway would run 1,177 km (730 miles) - mostly through the pristine wilderness of northern British Columbia - to Kitimat, a deepwater port on the Pacific Coast.

"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," it said in a statement.

Environmental activists, the government of British Columbia and aboriginal communities along the line's proposed route have opposed the project and may launch court challenges.

Indeed, the positive recommendation came as no surprise to Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance, who said that he is prepared to go to court to stop the project from going ahead.

"There's no way this project is going to go ahead. I don't care who says yes or no," he said. "This is our country. We never lost it any war and we haven't given it up to anybody."

Canada's Conservative cabinet, which has strongly supported the expansion of the country's pipeline network, now has 180 days to act on the panel's recommendation. If the government agrees with it, Northern Gateway would give Canada the means to ship large quantities of oil extracted from Alberta's tar sands beyond the United States for the first time.   Continued...

The Enbridge Tower is pictured on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber