REPORTING · 1st February 2011
In a development sure to disappoint many, the Federal Government appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) has determined the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline isn’t connected to the Tar Sands.
In a document released this week on the public panel input sessions held in Kitimat, BC, Prince George, BC and Whitecourt, Alberta the JRP described the meetings, presentations and changes they will be making to the draft list of issues, the additional information required from Enbridge and the locations for the formal hearings. The entire report is 25 pages in length detailing specific changes required. Many of these changes and requests for information are a result of the various presentations made. The conclusions are summarized by the following statements;
The application materials do not adequately address project-specific challenges and risks. The unique characteristics of this project include;
- The route crosses areas prone to avalanches and slides
- Routing is through the Rocky and Coastal Mountains with a requirement for two tunnels
- Many communities along the route are dependent on the land for subsistence and cultural reasons
- There will be high volumes of oil and condensate transported
Contained within the report however is a list of reasons why the JRP will not look at the Tar Sands as being a part of the cumulative impacts of the proposed pipeline. Under the heading 2.3 “Issues Not Added to the List of Issues” is 2.3.1 – Assessment of Environmental Effects Associated with Development of Oil Sands.
The panel made reference to the numerous presentations referring to the likelihood of the Oil Sands expansion if the project was approved. The panel first stated the consideration of the Oil sands was not within the original terms of reference. The next reason for not considering the expansion of the Tar Sands was the regulatory approvals for the Tar Sands are a Provincial matter, not federal. The third reason delivered was the proposal by Enbridge was only for the transportation of the product stating “Northern Gateway has not indicated any intention to develop any oil sands project” adding the Tar sands product can be transported by various existing and potential pipelines.
The forth and last reason given for not considering the Tar sands as being part of the entire package those who made presentation thought they should consider was, “The eastern terminus of the project is located near Bruderheim, Alberta, a substantial distance from existing and proposed oil sands developments.” The report goes on to state the Northern Gateway pipeline will be connected to other pipelines which could supply oil from various sources.
The report concludes in regards to the relationship between the Tar sands in Alberta, “we do not consider that there is a sufficiently direct connection between the Project and any particular or proposed oil sands development […]”
The USA continues to resist the importation of oil produced at the Tar Sands. In a letter dated July 16 from the US environmental protection agency to the Department of State regarding the Keystone XL pipeline project concerns were raised regarding the emissions and footprint of the Tar sands. The US environment assessment agency gave the proposed pipeline project the lowest possible approval rating entirely on the foundation of the source of the product, tar sands oil. According to a recent Financial Post article the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer complained as did Alberta’s assistant deputy environment minister, Ernie Hui.
On November 3, Doer, wrote to the EPA’s most senior official, Administrator Lisa Jackson, in a letter copied to Ms. Clinton. “We are concerned with the EPA’s recommendation that extraction-related GHG emissions in Canada form part of the Environmental Impact Statement included in the permitting process.”
Ernie Hui, Alberta’s assistant deputy environment minister, wrote “While we respect the intent of your input to this process, we also believe that the impacts occurring outside your jurisdiction are not substantive to the assessment of the pipeline”
Currently the Canadian Federal Parliament is under an obligation to propose legislation to prohibit the transport of crude oil or bitumen through the Northwest coastal waters from Vancouver Island to Hecate Strait. With the passage of such a law the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal would no longer be a consideration. This obligation was enforced by the unanimous consent of all the opposition parties in Parliament. The obligation will cease to exist if an election is called and the current Parliament is dissolved.