Watchdog disputes Pipeline

Enbridge Inc.‘s Northern Gateway pipeline will result in a nearly 30-per-cent increase in oil sands production, and should not be approved until Ottawa has a plan to control greenhouse gas emissions, a prominent Calgary-based environmental group says.

In a report issued yesterday, the Pembina Institute complained that the joint review panel - which will study social and environmental impacts of the project - does not intend to assess the emissions that would result from the proposed 367,500-barrel-per-day pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.
It estimated the resulting production would produce 6.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the equivalent to putting 1.6 million cars on the road.

“The panel has deliberately turned a blind eye toward the bigger picture environmental impacts of new oil sands production that would be required to fill this pipeline,” said Simon Dyer, Pembina’s oil sands program director.

The pipeline would be able to transport roughly 30 per cent of the oil sands production, based on 2008 figures. However, production has been expanding over the past two years, despite the recession, as Enbridge and TransCanada Corp. boost export capacity to the United States.

The Northern Gateway line would traverse British Columbia to Kitimat, where crude supertankers would load for shipment to Asia and the West Coast of the United States.

Mr. Dyer said Ottawa needs an overall approach to oil sands development.

Pembina - which typically intervenes in oil-industry environmental reviews - said it would not participate in the Gateway review because the panel is “ducking their responsibility.”

The review panel is a joint National Energy Board (NEB) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency effort. In its initial terms of reference released late last year, it did not include a review of environmental effects of increased production needed to fill the Gateway pipeline.

But the panel may opt to broaden its scope if it encounters significant concerns about the upstream impacts, said NEB spokeswoman Kristen Higgins.

“Just because it wasn’t listed in the terms of reference doesn’t mean it’s not an issue that the hearing can consider,” Ms. Higgins said.

Enbridge spokesman Steve Greenaway said the company is prepared to have the full scope of the project review, including potential impacts from production projects.

“We fully expect the project to come under significant scrutiny and to have to pass a high test as it relates to the public interest,” Mr. Greenaway said.

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