A review panel is recommending that the proposed 1,178 km Northern Gateway pipeline that would connect the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the BC coast go ahead.
The 429-page report, however, outlines 209 conditions that Enbridge must meet if the pipeline is to be built.
Based on a scientific and precautionary approach to this complex review, the panel found that the project, if built and operated in compliance with the conditions set out in its report, would be in the public interest.
The panel also recommended that the Governor in Council determine that the construction and routine operation of the project would cause no significant adverse environmental effects, with the exception of cumulative effects for certain populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bear. In these two cases, the panel found that cumulative effects as a result of this project and other projects, activities or actions are likely to be at the low end of the range of possible significance.
It concluded that the environmental burdens associated with project construction and routine operation can generally be effectively mitigated and that continued monitoring, scientific research and adaptive management could further reduce adverse effects.
Northern Gateway had taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems, the panel said. It also said that, after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low.
“Opening Pacific Basin markets is important to the Canadian economy and society,” the report said. ”The project would bring significant local, regional, and national economic and social benefits.”
The panel’s conditions, which would be enforced by the National Energy Board, include requirements for Enbridge to:
- Develop a Marine Mammal Protection Plan;
- Implement the TERMPOL Review Committee Recommendations;
- Prepare a Caribou Habitat Restoration Plan;
- Develop a Training and Education Monitoring Plan;
- Prepare an Enhanced Marine Spill Trajectory and Fate Modelling;
- Develop a Research Program on the Behaviour and Cleanup of Heavy Oils;
- Conduct Pre-operations Emergency Response Exercises and Develop an Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise and Training Program.
One 36 inch outside diameter line would carry an average of 525,000 barrels per day of oil west to a marine terminal in Kitimat, BC. The other line, a 20 inch outside diameter pipeline, would carry an average of 193,000 barrels of condensate, which is used to thin raw bitumen, per day east to Bruderheim, Alta. The project is expected to carry a price-tag of $7.9 billion.
The final decision rests with the federal government, which has roughly six months to respond to the report.
The controversial $6-billion proposal has pitted Calgary-based Enbridge against environmental groups and several First Nations.
They have raised concerns about the possibility of an oilspill on land or off the coast of British Columbia.
Supporters say the line is critical if Alberta is to get its oil to emerging markets in Asia.
Click here for a full version of the Joint Review Panel’s report.