NDP MLAs sign anti-LNG declaration

By Les Leyne, Times Colonist, January 26, 2016

Premier Christy Clark on Monday took a much harder line against the NDP and others who “say no to everything.”

It’s a familiar line of attack for Clark against the opposition. But in the case she was discussing — pronounced antipathy to the siting of a proposed liquefied natural gas plan near Prince Rupert — it includes a number of First Nations hereditary chiefs. Her government has been trying to stay on good terms with First Nations on a host of issues, but when it comes to resource development, she looks ready to talk tougher now than in the past.

She was reacting to a declaration signed by some hereditary chiefs and hundreds of others — including three NDP MLAs — that would forbid development of Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposed plant south of Prince Rupert because it impinges on salmon habitat.

“I am most concerned about the opponents … signing on to say they don’t want anything to happen up there,” said Clark. “It’s the world being divided into two. The people who will say no to everything, and people who want to find a way to get to yes, who recognize that’s how you create jobs.”

She got some support later from five elected Tsimshian Nation chiefs who said those who signed the declaration as hereditary chiefs had no mandate. They were “extremely disappointed” the NDP politicians signed on without consulting them, since they’ve been studying LNG for years.

The declaration arose from a meeting devoted to protecting the Skeena River’s salmon runs. The plant’s tidewater siting is a sticking point in the federal environmental-approval process now underway.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans recently told that approval panel that “no significant effects” are expected from a trestle that runs over that habitat.

Clark said the federal scientists with DFO believe the impacts will be mitigable and the fish will be supported.

“When those scientists say the process can go ahead, I’m not sure what science the forces of no bring together up there, except that it’s not really about the science, it’s not really about the fish, it’s just about trying to say no,” she said. “It’s about fear of change, it’s about fear of the future.”

The declaration is also a bit of a departure for the NDP, since it amounts to a definitive no on at least one LNG project. It’s the most forthright pronouncement on the issue to date by anyone in the party. The NDP has been expressing lukewarm support for the potential new industry for the past several years. But it has voted against measures introduced to make it happen and been critical of how the government has handled the long negotiations over the projects.

The MLAs — Jennifer Rice (North Coast), Doug Donaldson (Stikine) and Robin Austin (Skeena) — represent much of the B.C. coast, including most of the major proposed LNG sites. They signed up, along with NDP MP Nathan Cullen. The unequivocal rejection of the project is on grounds that could easily apply to other sites, since lots of salmon streams are in play.

The declaration would forbid the plant because the site is “protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources … to be held in trust for all future generations,” says the declaration.

In addition to signing the declaration, the trio of MLAs said the proposed facility “poses an unacceptable risk to the Flora Bank habitat that is an irreplaceable link in the Skeena River salmon ecosystem.”

Bruce Ralston, the NDP’s critic on the LNG file, said people have been “mystified” for years about why the particular site was chosen, because of its sensitivity.

The Skeena is one of the great salmon rivers and there’s a legitimate debate about what impact an LNG plant would have, he said.

Ralston said the NDP does support the creation of an LNG industry, but it’s conditional on First Nations and environmental concerns that haven’t been alleviated by PNW LNG.

The three MLAs’ decision “doesn’t detract from our overall support for the creation of an LNG industry.”

There are about 20 projects in the works. “Some we support and some we don’t,” Ralston said.

First Nations look as fractured on LNG at this point as the B.C. Liberals and NDP are. But some company has to commit to actually building a plant before the various pronouncements amount to much.

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/les-leyne-ndp-mlas-sign-anti-lng-declaration-1.2158291">Download related file in PDF format

Salmon Summit wraps with declaration

By Shannon Lough, The Northern View, January 26, 2016

The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG terminal on Lelu Island continues to meet resistance from some First Nations and politicians — but not all.

Friends of Wild Salmon hosted the Salmon Nation Summit conference in Prince Rupert on Jan. 22 and 23 with the focus on how LNG development may threaten salmon in the Skeena River.

On the second day of the conference First Nations leaders, three MLAs, an MP and citizens signed the declaration for the “Permanent Protection of Lelu Island”.

The Lelu Island Declaration states: “That Lelu Island, and Flora and Agnew Banks, are hereby protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources, and are to be held in trust for all future generations.”

The Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and MLA Jennifer Rice both attended the conference and  signed the declaration.

“This project isn’t going to happen. This project can’t happen,” Cullen said in the press release.

Rice spoke at the conference and presented a letter affirming her commitment, along with two other Northern MLAs, Robin Austin, MLA for Skeena and Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine, to protect the Skeena wild salmon.

“There’s no doubt that when a group of diverse citizens often with differing viewpoints can come together and empower each other as I witnessed this weekend, that they are unstoppable,” Rice said.

Hereditary leaders from some of the the Nine Allied Tribes of the Tsimshian Nation, and hereditary leaders of the Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine, and Haisla First Nations also signed the declaration, including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, according to the release.

However, Chief Cliff White, Gitxaala, Chief Harold Leighton, Metlakatla, Chief Don Roberts, Kitsumkalum, Chief Joe Bevans, Kitselas and Chief Arnold Clifton, Gitga’at, made clear on Monday that the declaration was made without their consultation or support.

“The signatories to the declaration did not include or represent any of the five Tsimshian elected chiefs nor was there any mandate from elected or hereditary chiefs to support the declaration.

The Tsimshian chiefs reject the declaration calling for permanent protection of their traditional territories.  The chiefs view the declaration as a political action that is an attack on the rights and title interest of Tsimshian Nations,” the chiefs said in a press release.

“The chiefs are extremely disappointed that the local member of parliament and provincial NDP MLAs would choose to sign and comment on a project without any prior consultation or involvement with Tsimshian communities.”

The chief councillors also added that the summit did not present the full picture of the proposed project.

“The environmental teams of the Tsimshian Nations have been working collaboratively, through the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority (TESA), to rigorously review the science and have successfully pressed the proponent and CEAA for additional due diligence.  In addition, TESA has commissioned two independent reviews to validate the science.  TESA is in the process of concluding its work on the science and will be reporting out to its communities in the coming weeks,” they said.

“Tsimshian Nations will continue on their path of making decisions based on the best environmental information and the best interests of the communities they represent.”

The two-day conference had more than 300 people attend to listen to environmentalists and First Nations leaders speak about the politics and science behind possible LNG development.

The co-chair of Friends of Wild Salmon, Gerald Amos, said they planned to “tackle the notion of social licence, what should it mean and what role do communities have to projects like the Petronas one”.

He called the consultation process a broken system and hopes that Friends of the Wild Salmon are able to stop the development on Lelu Island. “It’s just the worst possible site,” he said.

Ian Gill, the founding president of Ecotrust Canada, presented on the politics of LNG development and how the government is desperate to deliver hard economic development in the province.

“I think there’s a frustration that our governments encourage foreign-owned companies, who have no responsibilities in Canada and no commitments to Canada’s future, to come in and make these grand proposals,” Gill said adding that it divides communities.

On Monday, Premier Christy Clark also pointed to the divisiveness saying those who signed the declaration were “the forces of no,” adding there is an apparent division between those “who say no to everything and those that want to find a way to get to yes.”

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Premier Clark battles B.C.‘s ‘forces of No,’ on LNG, trade deal; says she’s no quitter

By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press, January 26, 2016

Premier Christy Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the "forces of No" in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments "paternalistic" and "mindless."

Clark made the statements during a news conference where she fielded questions about opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, environmental concerns over liquefied natural gas development and tax breaks for the mining industry.

She said negotiating trade pacts and resource developments involves tough, but potentially rewarding benefits and she would rather be known as an achiever than a quitter.

"There are people who just say no to everything, and heaven knows there are plenty of those in British Columbia," said Clark. "But just because it's hard doesn't mean you give up. It doesn't mean you should be a quitter."

She criticized a coalition of First Nations, environmentalists and Opposition New Democrats who signed a declaration demanding a protection zone near a proposed multibillion-dollar LNG project at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

"I'm not sure what science the forces of No bring together up there except that it's not really about the science," said Clark. "It's not really about the fish. It's just about trying to say No. It's about fear of change. It's about a fear of the future."

Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, has proposed to build an LNG export terminal at Lelu Island.

The proposed project is billed as the largest private-sector investment in B.C.'s history, valued at $36 billion and estimated to create 4,500 construction jobs.

But the Lelu Island and Flora Bank region at the mouth of the Skeena River, is considered vital to the ecosystem of B.C.'s second-largest salmon-bearing waterway.

A coalition signed a declaration to protect the area at the end of a weekend summit in Prince Rupert, attended by more than 300 hereditary and elected First Nations leaders, scientists, politicians, fishermen and others.

"Once again, people from the entire length and breadth of the Skeena River and its estuaries have come together to let both levels of government and the industry know that they've made a mistake in siting this particular project," said Gerald Amos, Friends of Wild Salmon spokesman.

Amos said the area surrounding Lelu Island is known for its eel grass beds that offer protection for salmon before they head to the ocean or return to the Skeena to spawn.

He said First Nations view Clark's comments about as insensitive to people who want to protect the Skeena salmon.

"She's on the wrong side of this equation," he said. "Labelling the forces of No is paternalistic. It's downright insulting."

Lax Kw'alaams hereditary Chief Yahaan said the project is a threat to a centuries-old salmon-fishing culture. He said Clark doesn't understand the ties his people have to the river and the salmon.

"Her mentality, the mindless phrases that come out of her mouth," said Yahaan. "Saying that we're the people of No. We're the indigenous people of this land. We live here. We know about the environment. She doesn't."

But Gitga'at First Nation Chief Arnold Clifton said declaring Lelu Island and Flora Bank off limits to industrial development may be premature.

Clifton and four other elected area chiefs representing the northwest's Tsimshian Nation said many First Nations area awaiting the results of two independent scientific reviews before deciding whether to support the LNG project.

He downplayed the comments of Yahaan and other hereditary chiefs, but pointed at area New Democrats who signed the declaration.

"They stepped in a little too quickly," said Clifton of nearby Hartley Bay. "They should have spoken to the chiefs first."

New Democrat members of the legislature Jennifer Rice, Robin Austin and Doug Donaldson and the North Coast's federal member of Parliament Nathan Cullen signed the declaration.

Provincial New Democrat LNG critic Bruce Ralston said his party opposes the Lelu Island project because it does not meet the party's conditions of approval, including First Nations consent.

He said the NDP remains committed to supporting the LNG industry, providing it meets the Opposition's four conditions.

http://www.theprovince.com/business/premier+clark+battles+forces+trade+deal+says+shes+quitter/11675663/story.html">Download related file in PDF format

Saying ‘yes’ to wild salmon and a clean energy future – and saying ‘no’ to Christy Clark

Friends of Wild Salmon, January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016

For Immediate Release

Northern First Nations and community leaders have categorically rejected Premier Christy Clark’s paternalistic characterization of this weekend’s Lelu Island Declaration as being the work of what she has labeled the “Forces of No.”

“The Premier is right about one thing, and only one thing – we are a force, a growing force, and we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Des Nobels, long-time North Coast fisherman, co-chair of the historic Salmon Nation Summit, and an elected municipal leader with the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District.  “If she thinks she can just come up here and destroy critical salmon habitat, to threaten the very basis of an economy that has shaped our culture and sustained our families for untold generations, well, of course we say ‘no’ to that.”

Nobels was reacting to Clark’s dismissal Monday of the widely supported Lelu Island Declaration, which called permanent protection of Lelu Island as well as and Flora and Agnew Banks near the mouth of the Skeena River.

“What we say ‘yes’ to is to wild salmon, to real respect for Aboriginal rights and title, and to a green economy in the north that will be a model for how British Columbia can lead a global transition to a fossil-fuel-free future,” Nobels said.  “Clark wants to blame us for trying to halt Petronas in its tracks. Actually, it is her utter lack of respect for us, for our Indigenous peoples, for our laws, and for wild salmon that has placed this project on death row – not us. And make no mistake, this project will not proceed,” Nobels said.

Gerald Amos, Chairperson of Friends of Wild Salmon, and Aboriginal co – chair of the Summit added: “Christy Clark should read the declaration.  What we are for is protecting one of the most unique and precious places on the BC coast for all Canadians.  What we are for is respecting regional economies built on the health of Wild Salmon.  What we are for is our children and grandchildren having the opportunity to enjoy the very thing that has sustained us as peoples for untold generations.”  Amos added “In 40 years of being a FN leader and conservation leader in the north this is one of the most paternalistic and ill formed comments I have heard.  If she actually cared about our people, if she cared about our environment, and if she was serious about working to design an economy for all our futures, she would actually sign the declaration herself.”

Chief Glen Williams, President of the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office confirmed Monday that the Gitanyow First Nation will be signing the Lelu Island Declaration.  He said, “This project (Petronas) would have enormous impacts.  Our scientists have confirmed this part of the Skeena Estuary is 25 times more important to our salmon as anywhere else on the Skeena estuary.  This project was sited on Lelu Island absent of any consultations with us.  Christy Clark should be aware that this is illegal in Canada, and the fact this project is collapsing before her eyes is a consequence of her government’s broken promises and broken policies.  We will protect our food.”

Dr. Jonathan Moore, Chair of Coastal Science and Management at Simon Fraser University, and one of Canada’s preeminent experts on salmon ecology, said in response to Christy Clarks views on science “ Historic and recent scientific research has consistently found that the Flora Bank region is exceptionally important to young salmon from throughout the Skeena Watershed. Industrial development in this location, such as that proposed by PNW LNG, poses particularly high risks to salmon and the fisheries that they support."  Dr. Moore has been working on Flora Bank with a team of scientists for three years, and his work on Flora Bank was peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Science, the world’s preeminent journal of science.

For more information contact:
Jonathan Moore –  604-779-5523
Gerald Amos – 250-632-1521
Des Nobels – 250-627-1859
Glen Williams – 250-615-9597

First Nations, MLAs, and MP Sign Declaration for Permanent Protection of Lelu Island from Petronas

Friends of Wild Salmon, January 24, 2016

January 24, 2016
For Immediate Release

(Prince Rupert, BC) - Lelu Island and Flora Bank, critical habitat for wild salmon at the mouth of the Skeena River in northwestern B.C., have been declared permanently protected from industrial development by an unprecedented coalition of First Nations leaders, local residents and federal and provincial politicians.

The signing of The Lelu Island Declaration presents a major obstacle to plans by Malaysian-owned oil and gas giant, Petronas, to develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant near Prince Rupert. The declaration also deals a huge blow to the provincial government’s stated aim to get major LNG plants under construction before next year’s provincial election.

"The Lelu Declaration sends a powerful message to Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau,” said Hereditary Chief Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe of the Lax Kw'alaams. “The support to stop this LNG project is overwhelming. Nations are united from the headwaters of the Skeena River to the ocean. Together, we will fight this to the end."

The declaration was the culmination of a two-day Salmon Nation Summit, where more than 300 hereditary and elected First Nations leaders, scientists, politicians, commercial and sport fishermen, and other northern residents came together to defend wild salmon from the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

Signatories to the declaration included hereditary leaders from the Nine Allied Tribes of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation, and hereditary leaders of the Gitxsan, Wet'suwet'en, Lake Babine, and Haisla First Nations. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also signed the declaration.

The Petronas project was also emphatically rejected by NDP MP Nathan Cullen (Bulkley Valley), and three northern NDP MLAs: Jennifer Rice (North Coast), Doug Donaldson (Stikine), and Robin Austin (Skeena). All four of the region’s elected representatives signed the declaration. “This project isn’t going to happen. This project can’t happen,” Cullen said. The three MLAs released a letter that said, in part, "the proposed PNW LNG facility poses an unacceptable risk to the Flora Bank habitat that is an irreplaceable link in the Skeena River salmon ecosystem."

Gerald Amos, Chair of Friends of Wild Salmon stated, "We honour the support of our elected representatives. Unlike the Clark government, they are prepared to stand up for an economy that recognizes our Aboriginal title, plays a part in the fight against climate change, and favours long-term prosperity for all the people of the Skeena, over short-term gain for foreign investors.”

The Lelu Island Declaration states: "The undersigned First Nation leaders and citizens of the Nine Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams hereby declare that Lelu Island, and Flora and Agnew Banks, are hereby protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources, and are to be held in trust for all future generations."

The declaration extends an invitation to all First Nations, the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and all communities and citizens that depend on the health of Lelu Island, Flora and Agnew Banks and the Skeena River estuary, to join in defending this sacred and unique place and to protect it for all time.

Chief Na'MOKS of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation said, "Once again First Nations are being forced to take action because the government refuses to obey the laws of the land. We are salmon people and if we don't defend Flora Bank, there will be no protection for our salmon. The salmon is who we are, and without them we lose our identity and our future."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said, "Contrary to the false assertions of the B.C. Liberal government and Petronas' public relations machine, there is formidable opposition to the LNG project proposed for Lelu Island. What binds people together throughout northwest B.C. is the undeniable fact that wild salmon are at the centre of our livelihoods and existence. It is essential that the Trudeau government immediately intervene in the fundamentally flawed Canadian Environmental Assessment process to ensure that the Indigenous rights of the nations of the Skeena watershed are upheld."

Media contacts:
Hereditary Chief Yahaan (Donnie Wesley), Tsimshian Nation:  (250) 615 7787
Chief Na'MOKS (John Risdale), Wet'suwet'en Nation: 250-643-0771
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (250) 490 5314
Gerald Amos, Chair of Friends of Wild Salmon: (250) 632 1521

To read the Lelu Island Declaration, click here.
To read the statement release by the MLAs, click here.

For video contact 250-634-1021
For photos contact 250-847-9693

Ruling could affect more than Northern Gateway

By Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, January 14, 2016

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that brought a halt to Enbridge’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway project could have wider environmental implications for the province.

Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg found the B.C. government abdicated its statutory duties and breached its duty to consult First Nations when it signed and failed to terminate an equivalency agreement that handed the federal National Energy Board sole jurisdiction over the environmental assessment decision-making on the project.

Justice Koenigsberg said the province can’t rely on the NEB for environmental approval.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay, lead counsel for petitioners the Great Bear Initiative Society and Gitga’at First Nation (collectively the Coastal First Nations), said Wednesday the ruling “makes it clear that the province has jurisdiction over this pipeline so long as the conditions reflect its competence over the environment.”

He said the province breached its duty to consult and accommodate First Nations on the project, calling it a “very significant” decision that goes beyond Northern Gateway.

“The court said that the province abdicated, gave away, its powers to the federal government over the Northern Gateway project when it entered into this so-called equivalency agreement with the NEB. But it entered into exactly the same equivalency agreement with the NEB on the Kinder Morgan project.”

Avery added: “The province should be delighted, even though it was perhaps shown to have failed in its statutory constitutional duties, because we demonstrated that it had more power than it did. So the court essentially gave it the legal backbone that up to this point it failed to use. I hope the province will accept it.”

First Nations hailed the ruling as a major setback for the controversial pipeline plan.

“We’re running out of coffin nails now,” said Gitga’at spokesman and member Art Sterritt. “The reality is if Northern Gateway wants to try to go ahead after all of this, you’re looking at a whole new process whereby British Columbia is going to have hearings and sit down with First Nations up and down the routes wherever there’s any effects, and then decide whether or not Northern Gateway meets the conditions that they put in place.”

“This is a huge victory that affirms the provincial government’s duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations and to exercise its decision-making power on major pipeline projects,” said Arnold Clifton, chief councillor of the Gitga’at First Nation.

The ruling means the province must now make its own environmental assessment decision regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline, and that it must consult with and accommodate First Nations along the pipeline route about potential impacts to their aboriginal rights and title.

Koenigsberg ruled that the province breached “the honour of the Crown” by failing to consult with the CFN, and the Gitga’at specifically.

“The province is required to consult with the Gitga’at about the potential impacts of the project on areas of provincial jurisdiction and about how those impacts may affect the Gitga’at’s aboriginal rights, and how those impacts are to be addressed in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown and reconciliation,” Koenigsberg said in his decision.

The ruling means that until the province makes a decision on the pipeline and issues an Environmental Assessment Certificate, none of the approximately 60 permits, licenses and authorizations necessary for the project to proceed can be issued.

It is the latest setback for the project, which aims to ship 525,000 barrels of oilsands crude a day to Kitimat for export to Asia. The federal Liberal government has said it wants to formalize a tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast, a move many say would essentially kill the project.

Northern Gateway communications manager Ivan Giesbrecht said in a statement Wednesday that Enbridge still plans to proceed with the project.

“Approval of the project falls within federal jurisdiction, and this decision from the British Columbia Supreme Court does not change that approval or the project’s environmental assessment,” he said.

Asked if Enbridge would appeal the court decision Giesbrecht said: “This comes down to a jurisdictional matter between the federal and provincial governments. We support and welcome the court’s direction for more consultation with First Nation and Métis peoples.”

B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said the province is reviewing the Supreme Court decision, but the interpretation so far is that the province won’t have to duplicate the entire review process.

“Our reading of it is not that the judge is requiring us to do everything all over again. But what we do have to do is assess our B.C. requirement as per our B.C. statute and make sure that we’re complying with those requirements,” added Anton, noting that she doesn’t yet know whether the province will appeal the ruling.

Tara O’Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Energy Board, declined to comment on what the ruling would mean for other projects under review.

Earlier this month, Enbridge said it has a plan to meet regulatory deadlines on the pipeline despite the looming expiry of NEB approval this year.

Among deadlines in the 209 conditions the project must meet NEB approval expires if construction has not started before the end of 2016.

And the Calgary-based company must have signed commitments from oil producers to ship crude on the pipeline, making up at least 60 per cent of line capacity, six months before construction starts.

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Province of B.C. formally opposes Kinder Morgan expansion

By Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, January 11, 2016

The B.C. government will formally oppose the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion in a written submission to the National Energy Board on Monday.

Environment Minister Mary Polak told The Vancouver Sun that the government believes that pipeline proponent Kinder Morgan has failed to provide the NEB with an adequate plan to prevent or respond to an oil spill.

“We are asking them not to recommend approval,” Polak said.

The B.C. government laid out in five conditions in 2012 that it said all oil pipeline projects would have to meet before they would be allowed in the province.

The second and third conditions require “world-leading” prevention and response plans if a pipeline fails on land or if oil is spilled into any rivers, lakes or the ocean.

“As far as we’re concerned, we have not seen the evidence in the hearings to support a conclusion that they’ve met our conditions on two and three,” said Polak. “So we won’t be supporting their approval at this time.”

The $6.8 billion Trans Mountain project would involve Kinder Morgan twinning its existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to its terminal in Burnaby.

It would increase pipeline capacity between Edmonton and Burnaby from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 barrels, and lead to as much as a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.

Kinder Morgan has said it will mitigate increased risks of oil spills by increasing tug escorts in inland ocean waters and beefing up spill-response capacity. The company has also noted some First Nations support the project.

B.C.’s submission to the NEB mainly deals with spill response, said Polak.

“The evidence submitted to the NEB on Kinder Morgan’s specific expansion of their pipeline … they did not submit evidence of their ability to respond in a world leading way on the land,” she said.

B.C. is making progress on developing a system for oil spill response on land, said Polak.

But much of the responsibility for a marine spill falls on the federal government.

“While there is primarily federal responsibility, that doesn’t mean that a company couldn’t provide the resources themselves to respond adequately to a spill,” said Polak, adding Kinder Morgan has failed to “step up” to that job.

“If you look at what’s lacking generally on our coast, especially the capacity for tug response … we still have significant concerns. We’ve had attention from the federal government, that’s evidenced in the (re-opening) announcement on the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and I know there’s ongoing discussions with them. I know they want to see improved spill capacity on the coast. But we haven’t seen that yet.”

Outside of the NEB process on oil spills, the project has failed to meet any of the province’s five conditions, such as obtaining First Nations support and providing the province a fair share of economic benefits, said Polak.

“At this stage, no they have not met any of our five conditions,” she said.

Environmental groups, First Nations and Metro-area municipalities have objected to the project, arguing that a leak from a pipeline or oil tanker would be catastrophic for the environment and the region’s economy. Several studies have predicted an oil spill would cost the region billions, pollute the water, devastate marine life and devalue property prices.

The city of Burnaby and First Nations have tried to block the project in court, and more than 100 protesters were arrested last year after they clashed with Kinder Morgan survey workers on Burnaby Mountain.

The NEB must make recommendations to the federal cabinet on the Trans Mountain project by May 20. The final decision will be made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

Trudeau has promised to overhaul the federal environment assessment process for projects, as well as include more emphasis on First Nation rights. His government has said projects already in the review process won’t have to start the process over, but there will be a transition period to allow for future changes to the federal regime.

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Enbridge says it will meet regulatory deadlines for Northern Gateway

By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun, January 11, 2016

Enbridge says it has a plan to meet regulatory deadlines on its $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline despite the looming expiry of National Energy Board approval this year.

Among deadlines in the 209 conditions the project must meet, NEB approval expires if construction has not started before the end of 2016.

And the Calgary-based company must have signed commitments from oil producers to ship crude on the pipeline, making up at least 60 per cent of line capacity, six months before construction starts.

In a Dec. 21 filing to the NEB, Calgary-based Enbridge said it had signed no firm commitments from Alberta oilsands producers for the project meant to open up new markets in Asia.

Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said the company, its commercial funding partners and aboriginal equity partners remain committed to the project.

“We have a plan in place to meet our National Energy Board commitments and timetables and are satisfied with the progress we are making,” Giesbrecht said in an email. “Part of that plan includes establishing respectful dialogue and achieving improved relationships with First Nations and Métis communities. Our support within these communities continues to grow.”

Giesbrecht said the company would have more to report in the next several weeks on its NEB commitments and filing schedule.

The Northern Gateway project has met stiff resistance from coastal and north-central B.C. First Nations, although the company says it has support from First Nations in B.C. and Alberta.

The environmental group Dogwood Initiative said the project’s demise is in sight, in particular because the company has failed to sign shipment agreements with oil producers.

“Northern Gateway is circling the drain,” said Dogwood spokesman Kai Nagata. “There are 19 lawsuits against the project and the new federal government is drawing up legislation to ban oil tankers on the North Coast. No oil producer is going to stick its neck out and pay for shipping capacity on a pipeline that will never be built.”

Enbridge has also continued to say its project remains viable despite a pledge by Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government to enact a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in northwest B.C., which encompasses the project’s terminus at Kitimat on Douglas Channel and the tanker route.

In its Dec. 21 filing to the NEB, Enbridge said it continues to have support of its funding participants — which include Cenovus, MEG Energy, Nexen, Suncor, Total E & P Canada — through support agreements.

Enbridge noted the shippers have said they won’t have signed agreements until all legal challenges of the project have been exhausted.

NEB spokeswoman Tara O’Donovan said the regulatory agency does grant extensions from time to time, provided the applicant has “sufficiently justified the need for an extension.”

For example, the NEB is considering a request of Imperial Oil to extend by seven years the construction start to year-end 2022 for the $20-billion Mackenzie gas pipeline project.

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In B.C., politicians ignore environment at their peril

By Mario Canseco, Special to the Sun, Vancouver Sun, January 04, 2016

For many Canadians, 2015 will be remembered as a banner year for the environmental movement.

In the past three months, there was a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions and a new government in Ottawa that ordered a ministry revamp — it is now called Department of the Environment and Climate Change — to hammer home the point that Canada is serious about the challenges ahead.

The shift toward new environmental policies was evident in the 2015 federal election. In British Columbia, the share of the vote for the Conservative party fell drastically, from 45.5 per cent in 2011 to 30 per cent in 2015. A third of voters abandoned the former ruling party, four years after its majority mandate.

The analysis points to severe problems for the Tories in the two components of British Columbia where people tend to be more environmentally friendly. In Vancouver Island, they failed to win a single seat, even with former cabinet member John Duncan contesting in a newly drawn constituency. In Metro Vancouver, the Conservatives lost seven ridings they held (or would have, under the new boundaries) and now have just three seats: South Surrey-White Rock, Richmond Centre and Langley-Aldergrove.

It would not be fair to say that the environment was the reason for the defeat of Tory candidates in 2015. Other issues, including Bill C-51, the Senate scandal and a lacklustre campaign, are also to blame for the power shift in Ottawa. Still, B.C. is a province that, along with Quebec, understood the ramifications of climate change more quickly than Ontario, the Maritimes or the Prairies. In B.C., the environment is still a decisive factor in selecting candidates and platforms.

With this backdrop, 2016 is shaping up to be a year in which the intersection of the economy and the environment will have an enormous effect on policies. Two oil pipeline projects, the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain line, were regarded as extraordinarily important just three years ago. Now, they are no longer “top of mind,” as the provincial government has focused most of its efforts toward liquefied natural gas.

In July, Insights West found that most British Columbians (52 per cent) are opposed to the Northern Gateway, and a slightly smaller proportion (46 per cent) were against the expansion of the Trans Mountain line. Opposition to both projects reached 53 per cent mark in Metro Vancouver. With numbers like these, it makes perfect sense for Victoria to focus on LNG.

Still, the LNG file has been one of shifting promises, and the public has not forgotten government stating that “billions of dollars in new revenue will be dedicated to the B.C. Prosperity Fund.”

In December 2013, just six months after an electoral victory that many saw as an endorsement of a “can do” premier that was going to create jobs, only 35 per cent of British Columbians said the provincial government was doing a “bad job” in handling LNG. Two years later, after delays and a drop in international prices, the proportion has jumped to 47 per cent.

The public’s relationship with LNG has been tenuous at best. While half of British Columbians (50 per cent) support the government’s push for the development of LNG, only 26 per cent approve of hydraulic fracturing or fracking — the process through which much of the LNG is extracted — and an even smaller proportion (22 per cent) believe the industry will bring benefits to all B.C. residents.

In October, the perception of a federal government that was not being environmentally friendly became one reason for voters in our province to take a second look at other alternatives. The federal Liberals were the beneficiaries, taking their share of the vote from 13 per cent in 2011 to 35 per cent in 2015. This makes it even more important for Victoria to deliver results and discuss all aspects of LNG (including fracking) openly and honestly. Mixed messages, as the Conservatives found out, will not sway a public that is already skeptical.

Mario Canseco is vice-president of Insights West’s public affairs division.

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Opinion: Tanker ban is best way to protect North Pacific

By Linda Nowlan, Vancouver Sun, December 21, 2015

Legislating an oil tanker ban in the North Pacific is a decisive step to build the future British Columbians want. While there are other ways to stop Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, a law prohibiting oil tanker traffic will address all oil tankers in the region, not just this one project, and remove all doubt about the federal moratorium, in place since 1972. Passing such a law will uphold Canada’s tradition of acting to protect its ocean interests while working with other states to develop international law. It is also a critical step for a sustainable future for the region.

The five private member bills introduced by MPs Joyce Murray and Nathan Cullen are a blueprint for action, and can be tailored to address past critiques, such as by exempting existing shipments of fuel to coastal communities in both B.C. and Alaska.

Concerns about how our neighbours to the south may react should not be overblown. Like all coastal nations, the U.S. juggles marine environmental protection and shipping rules such as innocent passage, and acts when necessary, as Canada should in this case. The U.S. restricts shipping through domestic law in environmentally sensitive areas such as Puget Sound, and through numerous internationally sanctioned limits. Just this past July, the International Maritime Organization approved a U.S. proposal to limit shipping close to the Alaskan Aleutian Islands due to concerns about potential damage to local communities reliant on fisheries.

It is similarly in Canada’s interests to eliminate the risk of catastrophic spills and other harmful impacts from oil tankers by prohibiting their passage in B.C.’s north coast, almost half of which is classified as “Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas”, according to criteria adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The proposed tanker routes pass by critical habitat for fish, shellfish, endangered whales, and protected areas like Gwaii Hanaas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, and Sgaan Kinghlas/Bowie Seamount, an underwater volcano protected under Canada’s Oceans Act.

Canada’s interests in legislating a north coast oil tanker ban are also economic — industries such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism depend on a healthy ocean. A study from UBC’s Fisheries Centre found that the costs of a major oil spill would outweigh the benefits that Enbridge itself calculated would flow from the Northern Gateway project. The researchers conservatively estimated that a large-scale spill could cost local fishermen, the Port of Prince Rupert, BC Ferries and marine tourism operators roughly $300 million, 4,000 full-time jobs, and $200 million in contribution to GDP over 50 years, not including damage to social, cultural and ecological values. Each year, ocean-based industries on the north coast of B.C. generate about $1.2 billion, provide employment for more than 9,000 people, and contribute approximately $700 million to GDP.

A legislated oil tanker ban would further protect Canada’s interests by according with the declarations of First Nations that have banned oil tanker traffic from the waters in their territories as a matter of their own laws. Eight First Nations are among the litigants now awaiting a ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal on the legality of the government’s Northern Gateway approval. Earlier this fall, the courtroom for the hearings was packed with community members and elders in regalia who were among those who had travelled from distant communities to show the depth of their opposition to this project.

A tanker ban is consistent with the “constitution for the oceans”, the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which confirms Canada’s full sovereignty over its internal waters, and its right to make laws for environmental protection in its territorial seas. The tanker ban law can be crafted to align with Canada’s support for freedom of navigation, consistent with environmental protection and coastal state security, building on our long-standing leadership in developing the law of the sea.

This would not be the first time Canada has acted to protect its waters from oil tankers. In the 1980s, Canada passed regulations limiting oil tankers in the waters within Head Harbour Passage, New Brunswick due to navigational risks and the value of fisheries and aquatic bird resources. (The regulations were later rescinded when the U.S. withdrew a proposal for an oil refinery in the area.) Canada also negotiated the “Arctic exception” clause in UNCLOS, giving international legal recognition to Canada’s unilateral action in passing the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act in 1972.

Finally, a tanker ban law can open up much-needed political space for a dialogue with the federal government about future directions for B.C.’s north coast that can build on marine spatial plans recently signed by the government of B.C. and 18 First Nations which establish marine zones and set directions for sustainable economic development. The need for a holistic approach to development that accounts for cumulative impacts has never been higher, as overall ocean health deteriorates, large fish dwindle, acidification weakens shellfish, and warming seas and rising sea levels portend damaging ecological consequences. But there is little hope for this to occur while relations between key actors remain soured as a result of prolonged controversy surrounding the potential introduction of oil tankers.

Formalizing the moratorium is rightly considered a top priority by a federal government committed to development that meets the needs of today and those of our grandchildren.

Linda Nowlan is staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver.

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Canoe for Justin Trudeau symbolic at several levels

By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, December 18, 2015

A small, finely crafted model of a West Coast cedar war canoe, complete with paddles, has become a symbol of the renewed relationship that First Nations hope is growing between them and the federal government.

In his visit to Vancouver City Hall Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was presented with the model by the chiefs of the three First Nations that cover much of Metro Vancouver.

For First Nations, the canoe is a powerful symbol signifying people pulling together in a shared journey. But the model presented to Trudeau by chiefs Ian Campbell, Maureen Thomas and Wayne Sparrow of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam, carried much more promise because of remarks the new aboriginal affairs minister, Carolyn Bennett, made last week at the Assembly of First Nations in Gatineau.

In her closing remarks, Bennett used the analogy of the relationship between First Nations and the previous federal government as a canoe that had capsized.

“Some of the chiefs in the delegation had said the canoe had actually sunk,” Campbell said Friday. “Bennett said it is time to right the canoe and point it in the right direction; it was a turning of the tide and there is room in the canoe for all of us to reset that relationship.”

So when Campbell, Thomas and Sparrow were invited to be at the head the receiving line at city hall, they thought there was no better gift for the prime minister than a new canoe, even though it is tiny compared to the leviathans their people had paddled in the past.

Campbell said he told Trudeau the context of Campbell’s comments and thanked him for his words about needing to change how Canada deals with First Nations. He said Trudeau said it was the right thing to do and that he was pleased to be welcomed by them.

“I said, well, welcome home, this is your home too,” Campbell said. “The spirit is strong here. There is a sense of hope of a new relationship and that the narrative is changing.”

Despite that optimistic new beginning, Campbell said he’s disappointed Trudeau didn’t take a stand on Kinder Morgan’s plan to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline and expand oil tanker use on the West Coast.

Trudeau had told reporters at City Hall that he objects to Northern Gateway’s proposed pipeline and that he doesn’t believe there should be any oil transport through the Great Bear Rainforest. But he also said Northern Gateway had the right to go through the process of application, as slim as their chances might be.

Trudeau didn’t comment on Kinder Morgan’s southern route through Vancouver’s harbour and Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory, which left Campbell unhappy. He said the First Nations are deeply concerned about the National Energy Board’s view that it doesn’t have to hear their concerns about the effect the project would have on their territories.

“That is where it raised some of the anxiety for me that he didn’t stretch it far enough to talk about revamping government-to-government relations in decision making around the NEB,” Campbell said.

“I think that agenda is something we’re going to be pushing in the new year. We are still wholly unsatisfied with the National Energy Board process, the procedural unfairness that doesn’t allow us the opportunity for dialogue and full recognition of rights and title and analysis of the risks associated with Kinder Morgan and other projects.”

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B.C. First Nations laud Trudeau’s tanker moratorium

By Fram Dinshaw, Vancouver Observer, December 17, 2015

First Nations representatives from northern British Columbia gave a warm welcome to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s moratorium on oil tanker traffic in their traditional territories.

The federal government’s tanker moratorium will keep ships out of northern B.C.’s Pacific coast and is seen by some observers as a roundabout way of stopping Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline. If built as planned, the pipeline would pump oil sands crude from Alberta to a tanker port in Kitimat on the Pacific coast, from where it would be exported abroad. Oil tankers would traverse waters around the Great Bear Rainforest and other areas of pristine wilderness.

“Now the federal government has created an opportunity to demonstrate that it is listening to First Nations by ensuring these types of projects no longer threaten the environment in the region. I encourage the federal government to seize that opportunity by enacting a strong and comprehensive oil tanker moratorium for the Pacific north coast. We only have one Earth to take care of,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Ottawa’s tanker ban comes five years after more than 100 First Nations communities signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, an accord prohibiting oil megaprojects in signatories' territories.

The Yinka Dene Alliance, which took the former Conservative government to court after it conditionally approved the Northern Gateway project earlier this year, also welcomed PM Trudeau’s tanker ban.

Saik'uz First Nation chief Stanley Thomas, who is also an alliance member, said that the federal moratorium would protect not only the ocean, but also their lands, freshwater supplies, plants, animals, and the communities that depend on them.

“We support the federal government on this. I think our boats are finally pointed in the right direction,” said Thomas.

The former Conservative government conditionally approved Northern Gateway in June 2014 despite widespread popular opposition from British Columbians. Opponents of the pipeline condemned the National Energy Board’s review process for Northern Gateway as flawed, as it did not examine the long term impacts of pipeline construction, tanker traffic, spills, or oil sands expansion on climate change.

“An oil spill would devastate fishing, tourism, and traditional subsistence harvesting, which are the backbones of the economy in the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii,” said Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk Nation and president of the Coastal First Nations.

Promises to keep

Just days after his government was sworn in last month, PM Trudeau issued a mandate letter to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, directing him to implement the tanker moratorium together with the ministries of natural resources, fisheries, and the environment.

"The dispute between First Nations and the federal government over Northern Gateway has been prolonged and highly-charged, diverting resources away from the many other important issues in the region that require constructive, forward-looking dialogue," said Chief Fred Sam of the Nak'azdli Nation, which is also a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance.

However, halting tanker traffic on the Pacific coast could cause a legal headache for PM Trudeau, as any measures that disrupt shipping in this area may be contested by the United States. The Americans maintain that their ships have freedom of navigation along this stretch of coast, which is a sea corridor to communities across the Alaska Panhandle.

What’s more, Enbridge has also managed to win support from 28 of the 40-plus Indigenous bands living along Northern Gateway’s proposed route, according to the Globe and Mail. This could mean that First Nations communities once opposed to the pipeline may yet support it, possibly breathing new life into the energy giant’s plans to pipe oil to tankers on the Pacific coast.

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Forget Keystone XL, Trudeau is about to kill Northern Gateway all on his own

By Brian Zinchuk, Pipeline News, December 07, 2015

Our newly minted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could almost be forgiven for his underwhelming response when President Barack Obama rejected the TransCanada Keystone XL project after 7 years. It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s fight, and Harper lost. But what hardly got any press at all was his own pipeline-killing announcement, done somewhat slyly, under the radar.

In ministerial mandate letters published on the prime minister’s web page, Trudeau made public his explicit marching orders to each of his new ministers. Buried in the letter to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Canada’s first astronaut, was this shocker: Among Garneau’s top seven priorities, he is to “Formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, working in collaboration with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop an approach.”

In other words, Prime Minister Trudeau is going to effectively kneecap a pipeline proposal that already has National Energy Board approval. There is zero point to building a pipeline if you can’t load your product on ships. Enbridge's Northern Gateway is now all but dead.

For those who are counting, in the space of a week we went from four potential oil export pipelines to two – Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain Expansion (TMX) and TransCanada’s Energy East. This comes after years of the industry saying we were going to need all of the above when it came to export pipeline proposals.

Losing Keystone XL was expected. Many had become disillusioned with Northern Gateway’s prospects. But to lose both, that’s a body-blow to the Canadian oil sector.

A tanker moratorium would also preclude the usage of crude-by-rail to the northern B.C. coast. It means that West Coast exports are now all-or-nothing; Kinder Morgan’s TMX, or nothing. Abandon all Pacific and possibly south Asian markets. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to ship oil from Fort McMurray, to St. John, New Brunswick across the Atlantic, through the Suez Canal in the opposite direction of all other loaded oil tankers, around India to China. The Panama Canal could be another option, but instead of taking the shortcut great circle route to Asia, you are going all the way across, then around North America, and then around half the planet along the equator to get to Asia.

Perhaps this is why, during the televised leaders’ debate, Trudeau said nothing directly about either Northern Gateway or TMX. Now we know – he intended to kill Northern Gateway all along, he just wasn’t going to let the other leaders make an issue of it. If this was an election promise, it wasn’t one he broadcast widely.

With the upcoming climate change conference, COP21 in Paris, Trudeau is planning on making a very, very big deal out of it. He’s taking all the premiers along with him who want to go, as well as opposition leaders. By mid-December we will have a very clear idea of how much more of our industry he plans to lay waste to.

With a prime minister like Trudeau, who in our industry needs enemies?

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Why Northern Gateway is probably dead

By Justine Hunter and Carrie Tait, The Globe and Mail, December 05, 2015

Along the proposed route of the Northern Gateway pipeline, nothing is moving.

There is no clearing, mowing, grading, trenching, drilling, boring or blasting. Industry analysts have almost stopped asking questions because interested parties – contractors, engineering firms and others – have moved on to more realistic prospects. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the project has climbed to $7.9-billion, while not one of the 209 conditions attached to its environmental certificate has been checked off as complete.

After spending half a billion dollars in an effort to win the right to build a 1,100-kilometre pipeline to carry Alberta oil-sands bitumen to tidewater, Enbridge Inc. is understandably reluctant to tell its shareholders that the effort has been for naught. In fact, the company insists that the project is not dead.

But the commitment from the federal Liberals to impose an oil-tanker ban off of British Columbia’s north coast, in addition to promised tougher environmental assessments, already provides a draft of the project’s obituary.

Senior players in western Canada’s oil patch quietly wrote Northern Gateway off some time ago, but they are now comfortable publicly dismissing it.

Steve Williams, Suncor Energy Inc.’s chief executive officer, said Northern Gateway is “not executable” in its current form, despite winning federal approval. More work must be done with First Nations, he said.

TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East proposal looks more promising, Mr. Williams added. “It is a complicated and long pipeline, but I think you’ve got to say that’s probably where betting money would be at the moment,” he said.

Investors long ago dropped Northern Gateway from their calculations of Enbridge’s financial future, and the oil and gas industry quietly started looking for new prospects three years ago, said Laura Lau, a senior vice-president at Brompton Funds in Toronto. Her funds own Enbridge shares.

“They probably see a higher probability in Energy East,” Ms. Lau said. “A lot of the pipe is in the ground. And it is made-in-Canada. It is almost like a nation-building exercise.”

Enbridge has until the end of 2016 to get shovels in the ground. But the political landscape has changed dramatically.

The B.C. Liberal government has been cold to the project amid public opposition. There are nine court challenges from First Nations and environmentalists before the Federal Court of Appeal. However, Premier Christy Clark always maintained an exit strategy that kept some shred of optimism afloat: If Ottawa and Alberta played it right, B.C. could be won over. But that now looks unlikely.

In May, Alberta voters elected Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party. Ms. Notley vowed during the campaign to withdraw provincial support of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Her government has tried to walk the commitment back in recent months, saying the project is simply not worth an investment of political capital.

Then in October, voters ousted the federal Conservative government, which had deemed Northern Gateway to be in “the national interest.” In its place is a Liberal government that is showing little love for the project. The Liberals have promised to subject existing oil-sands pipeline proposals to tougher environmental assessments. Enbridge won’t have to start from the beginning, but it will not have an easy path to the cabinet’s final decision.

In the meantime, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion bid and the Energy East project are absorbing the attention of politicians and bureaucrats looking for a solution to getting Alberta oil to tidewater.

Enbridge officials say they remain busy with aboriginal consultation along the pipeline route and have filed progress reports on 15 of the 209 conditions with the National Energy Board (NEB). Ivan Giesbrecht, a spokesman for Northern Gateway, said more measurable progress will be made once a firm date for construction is set.

But there is no point building the pipeline to the West Coast if the product can’t get out of port.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has directed Transport Minister Marc Garneau to formalize an oil-tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast. The Northern Gateway route would bring Alberta oil to the northern coastal community of Kitimat, B.C., to be loaded onto supertankers bound for overseas markets. If the ban is imposed, that route is bound for a dead end.

Mr. Giesbrecht said the company will be consulting its lawyers to see if a tanker ban can be overturned. “We have 28-plus aboriginal equity partners who have an inescapable economic right to be consulted by the government on how a tanker moratorium would impact them. We are very much looking forward to chat with the federal government.”

An expert in maritime law warns that it would not be easy to implement a tanker ban.

Robert Hage, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said a ban would probably include Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. That is “not encouraging” for Enbridge, he said, but a legislated ban would probably raise the ire of the United States, while a less contentious “mariner’s notice” would not have the force of law.

A better approach would be to hit the pause button on the promised ban, he said, and first take a broader look at how Canada can get its energy to market – a discussion that must include aboriginal Canadians.

One of the leading opponents of Northern Gateway is Chief Councillor Ellis Ross of the Haisla Nation. Although Enbridge says it is making progress with aboriginal communities along the route, the Haisla have slammed the door shut in their Kitimat-area territory.

However, Mr. Ross is not ready to declare the war over. “I am sure they can deliver the ban, but I’m skeptical about the timeline around that – everyone celebrates too early,” he said.

Mr. Garneau did not respond to requests for an interview. His staff said he needs more time to learn the file before addressing future plans.

Gaétan Caron, who chaired the NEB for seven years and spent 35 years at the organization before retiring last spring, believes that Northern Gateway still has a chance. Ironically, it is First Nations, which have led the opposition in B.C., that hold the power to revive it.

“The journey toward reconciliation with indigenous people of Canada is a long one and a difficult one – and a worthwhile one,” Mr. Caron said. Northern Gateway could be a small part of the reconciliation: “That would depend if there is a change, correspondingly and simultaneously, in terms of the relationship between Enbridge and indigenous people.”

For now, he said, he is not ready to declare the project dead. “Until I read in the paper … that Enbridge has abandoned its plan to build Northern Gateway, it is an open possibility. Not an easy one, but it is one.”

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A tanker ban is the hard way to deal with Northern Gateway

By Robert Hage, The Globe and Mail, November 21, 2015

Last Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Transport Minister Marc Garneau a “top-priority” mandate to work with fellow cabinet ministers to “formalize a moratorium” on crude-oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast. This is not a new idea.

In 2010, Joyce Murray, Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra and a former provincial environment minister, introduced a private member’s bill to legislate a tanker ban off the B.C. coast. Her bill was one of five advanced between 2007 and 2011 by opposition Liberal and New Democratic members to stop the development of the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline and terminal project.

Mr. Garneau’s mandate resuscitates these failed legislative attempts. But if the government wants to stop the pipeline, there are much easier ways to do so.

The earlier bills all proposed to amend relevant Canadian legislation to ban tanker traffic in the so-called Fishing Zone 3 north of Vancouver Island, an area comprising Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. To “formalize” an effective moratorium or ban, as the Prime Minister proposes, the new government would seem to have little choice but to take such a legislative route. While the mandate does not define the “North Coast,” it would seem to parallel the area from previous proposals.

What has not been recognized in these proposals is that efforts to ban crude-oil tankers in this area open a Pandora’s box of issues involving the United States: Canada’s historic claims to some of these waters, the unresolved Alaska Panhandle boundary, the passage of U.S. nuclear submarines through Dixon Entrance, innocent passage, freedom of navigation, fishing rights. Yet the new Foreign Affairs Minister was not included in Mr. Garneau’s mandated ministerial consultative group.

Since the 1890s, Canadian authorities have maintained that Dixon Entrance (just south of the Alaska Panhandle) and Hecate Strait (east of Haida Gwaii) are historic internal waters of Canada. Under international law, Canada has complete sovereignty over such waters and can legislate at will. In 1963, prime minister Lester Pearson advised the House of Commons that Canada would make its claim clear (as it subsequently did with the Northwest Passage in 1985) by drawing “straight baselines” across these waters as well as across Queen Charlotte Sound, southeast of Haida Gwaii. Canada took no action until 1971, when Pierre Trudeau’s government drew “fishing closing lines” around the same area to create an exclusive Canadian fishing zone.

That the government refrained from sealing off this large area with straight baselines and denying foreign vessels the right of innocent passage was likely to avoid provoking the United States, which has been consistent in protesting against Canadian actions affecting what it regards as its maritime rights on the North Coast.

Canada’s actions rest on the supposition that these waters belong to Canada. Canada, one of the world’s largest coastal states, has been a champion of coastal state claims to wider areas of jurisdiction. The United States, a world maritime power, has been an advocate for the rights of flag states. Even though U.S. tankers carrying crude oil from Alaska to the Lower 48 do not come along B.C.’s North Coast, it is hard to imagine the United States not protesting against a Canadian tanker ban that rests on Canada’s unilateral internal waters claim.

The proposed tanker moratorium raises other questions. The American-owned Kinder Morgan pipeline already ships Alberta bitumen to the Port of Vancouver for onward shipment to Asia through the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca Strait. The company has applied to triple the pipeline’s capacity, but it would not be affected by the tanker moratorium.

Proposed tanker shipments of liquefied natural gas from locations along the North Coast would also not be affected, although the large LNG tankers would be the same size as those carrying crude and projected LNG tanker traffic would considerably exceed the traffic that would result from a Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. The proposed moratorium would apply to crude oil, but it is not clear whether it would apply if the oil were to be refined prior to shipment, in either Alberta or B.C. Much of the oil sands’ crude is “upgraded” prior to shipment. Would it be considered crude oil?

Throughout the debate on the status of B.C.’s North Coast waters, Canada has adopted what has been called “a degree of ambiguity,” avoiding unnecessary diplomatic confrontation. Is it in Canada’s interest to change this approach? Above all, we would not want to undermine Canada’s position on the unresolved Dixon Entrance maritime boundary between Alaska and B.C.

If the government wants to stop Northern Gateway, it can simply do so, either by order-in-council or legislation. So why a tanker ban? Alternatively, it could do what the previous Conservative government failed to do – namely, to bring together Alberta, B.C., the region’s First Nations and relevant communities to discuss not just one project, but the sustainable development of the 19 proposed West Coast energy projects.

The “top priority” might well be to take some time and get this right.

Robert Hage is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and co-author of the 2012 Macdonald-Laurier Institute paper Making Oil And Water Mix.

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