Northern Gateway

At the close of 2011 and the start of 2012, Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project became something of a public referendum on Alberta’s oilsands. Those in favour of the massive bitumen-carrying line touted it as a nation-building piece of infrastructure that would allow for increased resource revenue; those against have positioned it as a gateway to further bitumen extraction, which in turn could mean higher greenhouse gas emissions and further compromises to traditional land. Over several months the project yielded many stories, primarily published in The Edmonton Journal and, on occasion, in Postmedia newspapers such as the Vancouver Sun as well.

29 February 2012: “First Nations not part of pipeline plan: report”

“Long before a public hearing began this year into a controversial pipeline proposed to carry Alberta oil to the B.C. coast, Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada knew it did not have the resources to address First Nations concerns about the project, newly public documents show.

“According to a ‘scenario note’ for a 2006 meeting between the deputy minister of aboriginal affairs, the president of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and others, First Nations groups in B.C. and Alberta expected ‘federal engagement on consultation and provision benefits’ related to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to be in line with what was available to aboriginal groups during the 1970s Berger Inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline through the Northwest Territories.

“However, the note indicates, ‘Indian and Northern Affairs Canada does not have the capacity to meet such demands as it does not have the regulatory framework, authorities, and resourcing in place south of 60 to address these concerns.’

“Instead, nearly 500 pages of documents outlining the Aboriginal Affairs’ pipeline consultation strategy between 2004 and 2011 – released to The Edmonton Journal under Access to Information laws – show Ottawa expects Enbridge to fulfil some of the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations and Métis groups. …”

29 January 2012: “Natives balance pipeline jobs, environment; Gateway proposal creates dilemmas for Alberta aboriginals”

“At a west Edmonton hotel last week, Cree elders, chiefs and young people invited Enbridge lawyers and members of the governmentappointed panel weighing the pros and cons of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline proposal to join them in prayer.

“The morning smudge ceremony left scented smoke wafting in the room Thursday as members of the Alexander and Swan River First Nations spoke to the joint National Energy Board-Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review panel. Like drum circles outside the building or testimony given entirely in Cree, such ceremony often anchored the public sessions, reminding participants the pipeline – if approved – will cross land indigenous people have called home for millennia.

“For the first time since the hearings began at the start of January, Alberta aboriginals last week shared their warnings, expectations and concerns about the pipeline proposed to carry bitumen from Strathcona County to the west coast.

“But if B.C. First Nations have championed a wall of opposition stretching beyond the pipeline corridor, the groups who presented in Edmonton instead offered questions.

“‘What exactly is the environmental impact? What is the remedy for everything that is taken out?’ asked Lorna Morin, a member of the Enoch Cree west of Edmonton. ‘How will it benefit us, the pipeline itself? I believe that it’s probably needed, but what is the whole impact?’

“The presenters arrived from all corners of the province, from the Alexander Nation with its two reserves on the proposed route, to the Samson Nation south of Wetaskiwin, to the Fort Chipewyan Nation north of Fort McMurray.

“They came arguing traditional lands and wildlife must be protected, while lobbying for future employment opportunities and sometimes offering history lessons on treaty negotiations and government promises made more than a century ago. Some had clear stakes in the Gateway project – a map of the project shows the Alexander and Enoch reserves lie along the proposed corridor.

“Others tried to draw attention to land claims. In Alberta, the pipeline runs primarily through Treaty 8 land. That means as many as 23 Alberta First Nations groups whose ancestors signed the 1899 treaty could count territory crossed by the pipeline as part of their traditional ceremonial, hunting, gathering, fishing or trapping grounds. …”

25 January 2012: “Enoch ‘caretakers of the land,’ but eye Gateway benefits”

“The lead community-industry liaison for the Enoch Cree First Nation finds herself in a bit of a ‘bind’ when it comes to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

“‘We were known as the caretakers of the land … If you’re going to take something from the land, give something back,’ Leigh Ann Ward said Tuesday.

“‘There is a need for (the pipeline), but what are the environmental impacts?’

“At the same time, Ward is interested in the economic benefits of the proposed pipeline, which would carry Alberta bitumen to Asia-bound tankers off the West Coast.

“‘We want it to go ahead, because this will ensure employment for our band members,’ she said, noting as many as 24 members are already trained to work on pipeline construction. …

“‘What we want is not to jump into this project, but take a little more time,’ she said. …”

24 January 2012: “Landowners wary of pipeline; Hearings to sample rural Alberta views on Gateway impact”

“Scott and Cindy Briggs have lost count of the number of pipelines crossing their acreage north of Bon Accord.

“‘We’re kind of running out of space,’ Scott said Monday, looking out at the land his family has held for three generations.

“‘You don’t see them, but they’re there,’ Cindy said.

“‘And you can’t build anywhere near them,’ Scott said.

“The Briggs’s quarter-section is about 30 kilometres north of Edmonton, along an east-west track between Highway 28 and Township Road 564 that is the expected route of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The pair first learned about 18 months ago that the line, expected to carry Alberta bitumen from Strathcona County to tankers in Kitimat, B.C., could cross their property.

“Aboriginal, government, business and environmental organizations have vocally supported or opposed the controversial project. But landowners in Alberta have been largely silent. Private land accounts for just 20 per cent of the proposed pipeline route; the rest is Crown land, owned by government, and considered the traditional territory of various First Nations and Métis. …

“The Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowners Associations – a national group that bills itself as pro-development but intent on protecting landowners’ rights – says rural landowners along the proposed route risk missing their opportunity to speak up for or against the pipeline. Enbridge has laid out a one-kilometre corridor, and people along the proposed route are aware of the pipeline, but details of where it might actually lay will not be determined until after the project is formally approved.

“‘Nobody thinks about the private landowners. The problem is most private landowners don’t fully understand the annual risks, liabilities, costs and obligations that they get with the pipeline,’ said Dave Core, a director with the organization, which has its head office in Regina. …”

3 January 2012: “$72B at stake if Gateway halted; Oil producers face huge losses if B.C. pipeline rejected, report says”

“Oil producers could lose $72 billion over a nine-year-period if a pipeline to carry Alberta bitumen to the west coast isn’t built, a new report for the Alberta government says as community hearings for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project are about to begin in British Columbia.

“In a 44-page report submitted before Christmas to the federal government panel reviewing the pipeline project, consultants for Alberta Energy peg potential losses for oil producers in the project at $8 billion every year between 2017 and 2025.

“The forecast, drawn up by Houston-based consultant Harold York for the firm Wood Mackenzie, is largely based on the expectation that Alberta oil sells at a higher price on an international market than it does in North America.

“‘If we can get it offshore, there are a lot more markets available to us which are willing to pay a higher price,’ Alberta Energy spokesman Tim Markle said.

“The outlook does not deal with the oilsands production boost anticipated as a result of pipeline construction. It also does not deal explicitly with the effects that offshore bitumen sales would have on oil royalties collected by Alberta.

“Currently, Alberta’s main oil customer is the United States, which recently held off on approving the massive Keystone XL pipeline extension to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Dec. 21 Wood Mackenzie report flags Alberta Energy as the provincial government’s lead representative going into 18 months of hearings that start next week. But critics charge the report positions the province to offer just ‘half of the balance sheet’ to the federal panel by not raising environmental issues as well. …”

28 December 2011: “Ottawa concerned about Gateway delays; Schedule for hearings pushes decision on pipeline back at least a year”

“Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is ‘concerned about excess delays’ in the public hearing process for a proposed pipeline that would carry Alberta oil to tankers off the west coast of British Columbia.

“In an email Tuesday, Oliver responded to questions about newly released public documents that show as recently as September, politicians in Ottawa expected hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project to be completed by mid-2012.

“In December, the joint review panel evaluating environmental and safety impacts of the pipeline released a hearing schedule that makes room for as many as 4,000 people to present evidence between January 2012 and April 2013.

“The new schedule pushes any final decision on Gateway back by at least a year.

“‘We respect the process but are concerned about excess delays,’ Oliver said, noting, ‘consultations – with aboriginal and other organizations have been ongoing since 2008.’ …

Briefing notes to Oliver, dated Sept. 20 and released to the Edmonton Journal under access to information laws this month, outline Ottawa’s ‘key messages’ on the project, explaining the economic benefits of the proposed pipeline and ‘federal “support.'”‘

“The documents emphasize Ottawa will not make any decisions on the project until after the panel completes its review. …”

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