Canada’s national energy regulator has omitted marine transportation routes from draft conditions for Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline through British Columbia.
The draft conditions, set out April 12 by the National Energy Board, would be applied to the oil and condensate pipelines, the loading terminal at the port of Kitimat, British Columbia and construction of the project, without taking into account tanker routes to the Pacific Ocean, documents show.
In doing so, the regulator is accepting the voluntary commitments that Enbridge has made to provide oil-spill response and clean up in the event of an accident. The regulator has a mandate to impose its own conditions for marine transportation routes, said Gerald Graham, a maritime law consultant based in Victoria, British Columbia.
“This means it will probably end up in the courts,” said Graham in an April 12 phone interview. Because Enbridge doesn’t operate or own tankers, it would be difficult for the Calgary-based company to be held accountable for implementing voluntary conditions, he said.
Oil tankers would have to travel about 90 kilometers (56 miles) through the Douglas Channel, a narrow inlet, to reach the port of Kitimat. The inlet’s marine life has been compared by local native groups, such as the Haisla First Nation, to coastal Alaska where the Exxon Valdez struck a reef and spilled oil in the surrounding sea in 1989.
Environmental and aboriginal groups have said they are preparing legal action to stop Calgary-based Enbridge’s C$6 billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline, potentially delaying it should Enbridge win approval to begin construction. The regulator has until the end of the year to make a recommendation.
Enbridge will review the conditions and respond through the joint review process, said Todd Nogier, a company spokesman, in an April 12 phone interview.
The pipeline would stretch 1,177 kilometers from west of Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat, allowing Canadian oil sands crude to reach markets in Asia.