Canadian native people oppose Northern Gateway oil pipeline

17 June 2014 18:44 Source:ICIS News

TORONTO (ICIS)--Canadian native people are opposing the planned Northern Gateway pipeline to ship oil from Alberta’s oil sands sector to the port of Kitimat on the British Columbia coast, from where it would be exported to Asia and elsewhere, an official said on Tuesday.

Northern Gateway, as proposed by energy infrastructure major Enbridge, is part of Canada’s effort to diversify markets for its oil and reduce its dependence on oil exports to the US - an issue that has become more important as the US has yet to approve the northern leg of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. Canada’s federal government is expected to soon issue a decision on Northern Gateway.

However, Art Sterrit, executive director of natives group Coastal First Nations, said the main worry were spills from large crude carriers to export the oil from Kitimat.

"Industry does not have the tools to clean up those spills," Sterrit said in an interview on Canadian television.

"They use chemical dispersants, but that’s not the way to clean up oil, they just cover up an oil spill," Sterrit said.

He urged industry to look into more expensive but better technologies and methods to combat and prevent oil spills.

"We need industry to step up and put the money in to figure out how to clean this up, and then we will have a different conversation," he said.

He added that native people were less concerned about planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects on the British Columbia coast.

Accidents from those facilities and ships were not as big an ecological disaster as big oil spills and thus would not threaten native economies on the British Columbia coast, he said.

Andrew Leach, associate professor at the business school of the University of Alberta, said that opposition by native groups was the main obstacle to Northern Gateway.

"Is there a deal to be made with First Nations? That’s the remaining largest hurdle for the project," Leach said.

Without a deal, Northern Gateway would face many legal challenges, even if the federal government decides to approve it, he said.

By Stefan Baumgarten