Natives to oppose West Coast oil pipelines

Thu Dec 1, 2011 2:56pm EST
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By David Ljunggren and Jeffrey Jones

(Reuters) - Aboriginal groups in the Canadian Pacific province of British Columbia said on Thursday they had formed a united front to oppose all exports of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands through their territories.

The declaration is another political blow to the Canadian energy sector and Canada's right-of-center Conservative government after Washington decided last month to delay approving a pipeline carrying oil sands crude to the Gulf Coast.

It adds to the uncertainty over Enbridge Inc's planned C$5.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline, which would move 525,000 barrels a day of tar sands-derived oil 1,177 km (731 miles) to the Pacific port of Kitimat, British Columbia.

Aboriginal groups, also known as First Nations, say they fear the consequences of a spill from the pipeline, which would pass through some of Canada's most spectacular mountain landscape. They also oppose the idea of shipping oil from British Columbia ports.

"First Nations, whose unceded territory encompasses the entire coastline of British Columbia, have formed a united front, banning all exports of tar sands crude oil through their territories," more than 60 aboriginal groups said in a statement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Northern Gateway - which would open up a new supply route to Asia - is important for Canada, especially after the United States delay to approval of TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline.

Washington announced the delay after a high-profile protest campaign against oil sands crude, which requires large amounts of energy to produce.

Aboriginal opposition is one of the biggest risks to Enbridge in its efforts to move Northern Gateway forward. The company has offered native groups equity stakes in the pipeline as well as large sums of money for community development.   Continued...