Federal regulatory hearings for Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline project are set to begin in Kitimat, British Columbia, the proposed oil tanker port. The controversial CAD 5 billion pipeline proposal to carry crude oil to port for export to Asia has been met with mixed reviews. Being considered the largest private infrastructure project in B.C. history, over 4,300 group and individuals are registered to speak at the hearings. The hearings are to be conducted by an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board across Alberta and B.C. over the next year and a half. The review panel is planning to report its findings in late 2013 due to the widespread participation.
With the United States government delaying the proposed USD 7 billion expansion of the KeystoneXL pipeline that was set to connect Alberta to Texas, the Enbridge project has become a target for international environmental groups. First Nations have also become involved saying the pipeline will infringe on their traditional territories and that the possibility of an oil spill will threaten their lifestyle. While some have been signing deals with Enbridge for a 10 percent stake in the enterprise, over 70 aboriginal groups have been strongly opposing the project.
Enbridge has said that the Northern Gateway would add approximately CAD 270 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product and create some 1,150 jobs in the provinces. While the project is being represented as a lucrative, nation-building initiative, environmental groups argue that the pipeline risks environmental catastrophe on the west coast.
Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper believes that environmentalists are being funded by foreign money to overload the public hearing phase of the regulatory hearings in order to prolong the process and slow down progress.