Oil sands opponents turn focus to Enbridge project

Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:41pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc's proposed C$5.5 billion ($5.3 billion) pipeline to British Columbia poses a raft of environmental risks, according to a new report that signals the project will become the next battleground over the future of Canada's oil sands.

The study by a trio of environmental groups, released on Tuesday, comes on the heels of a U.S. decision to push back approval of TransCanada Corp's Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline by more than a year.

The delay has led the Canada's oil industry and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to intensify their emphasis on exporting oil sands-derived crude to Asia.

The Enbridge project, known as the Northern Gateway pipeline, is the first attempt at doing that in scale.

But the new report - issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pembina Institute and Living Oceans Society - says the project would threaten native communities, the salmon fishery and wildlife habitat on the West Coast.

The report uses last year's Enbridge pipeline rupture and oil spill in Michigan, and even the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, as examples of why governments and regulators should block the proposal to bisect the rugged Western Canadian province with steel pipe.

Northern Gateway would move 525,000 barrels of crude a day to the port of Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to Pacific Rim refiners. The project is a key part of the Conservative government's plans for a National Energy Strategy.

Regulatory hearings are scheduled to begin in January and will take months. About 4,000 people have registered to comment on the project.   Continued...

<p>The Shell Muskeg River Mine demonstration tailings pond in northern, Alberta in seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>