Canada blasts foreign "radicals" opposing pipeline

Mon Jan 9, 2012 5:31pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - On the eve of public hearings into a proposed oil pipeline from Alberta's tar sands to the Pacific Coast, the Canadian government lashed out on Monday at what it said were foreign-funded radical groups opposing the project.

The comments by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were another sign of the pressures mounting against Enbridge Inc's proposed C$5.5 billion ($5.4 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline.

Canada's right-leaning Conservative government, which says the pipeline would help diversify energy exports away from the United States and more towards Asia, says activists are clogging up the regulatory process.

The hearings have been extended by about a year to the end of 2013, partly to accommodate the more than 4,000 people who want to make their point of view known. Environmentalists complain crude from the oil sands is particularly dirty while aboriginal groups say they fear the consequences of a spill.

The pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of Alberta crude a day across the Rocky Mountains to the port of Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to Pacific Rim markets.

"Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade," Oliver said in a statement.

"These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda ... They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest."

Ottawa and the oil industry are particularly interested in Northern Gateway after Washington delayed a decision on approving TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas.   Continued...