The Northern Gateway pipeline

With the commencement of hearings, the political fight over the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is now beginning in earnest. The proposed pipeline would carry bitumen from the oil sands to the Pacific coast for export. It would encourage the development of the oil sands and contribute to the fastest-growing category of emissions of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada. It would increase the total fraction of the world’s fossil fuels that will be burned, affecting how much climate change the world will experience. Having walked away from the Kyoto Protocol – and with no effective mechanism for curbing emissions in place – it is difficult to argue that Canada is doing its part to respond to this serious global problem.

In addition to the climate arguments, there is always some risk of a spill, either along the pipeline or with tankers off the B.C. coast. If what I read in John Vaillant‘s The Golden Spruce is at all accurate, the Hecate Strait is a particularly treacherous waterway. As anyone who has visited the coast of British Columbia knows, it’s also a beautiful and environmentally rich part of the world, both on land and in the sea. It would be a really awful place for another Deepwater Horizon-type disaster.

At present, the hearings on the pipeline are expected to last for 18 months. As we have seen from the Keystone XL pipeline, however, timetables are clearly subject to change as the debate progresses.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

15 thoughts on “The Northern Gateway pipeline”

  1. Blocking the Northern Gateway pipeline

    With the Keystone XL pipeline at least temporarily blocked, the next target for those hoping to limit the climatic damage done by Canada’s oil sands should probably be the Northern Gateway pipeline. This pipeline is intended to run from Alberta to Kitimat, in British Columbia, and allow the export of synthetic crude from the oil sands to Asia.

  2. Enbridge reports leak from U.S. pipeline as Northern Gateway hearings begin

    Canadian pipeline builder Enbridge reported a leak from one of its pipelines on the day public hearings began into the company’s planned Northern Gateway pipeline.

    U.S. pipeline regulators told Enbridge about the possible leak. A subsequent helicopter over-flight discovered a metre-wide patch of bubbles over the company’s Stingray pipeline, which can carry 560-million cubic feet a day of natural gas from offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The bubbles were found about 100 kilometres from the Louisiana coast.

  3. Discourse on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast got off to a raucous start with name calling, accusations and concerns that Canada’s economy is at stake even before the hearings in Kitimat, B.C. even began.

    Underlying the debate is the assumption that the oil sands are good for Canada’s economy. But are they more a Faustian bargain? Is Canada sacrificing the stability of the environment and other key economic sectors for the sake of generating as much money as possible from a non-renewable commodity? While concerns over the pipeline’s safety are legitimate -any spill could seriously affect the ecologically sensitive west coast and Fraser River for hundreds of kilometres — there are more widespread concerns that have largely been ignored.

    If given the green light, the Gateway pipeline will serve as a conduit for accelerated oil sands development. The Harper government prefers not to put oil sands and climate change in the same sentence, but they do go together. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warns that development of remaining oil sands and coal reserves will tip the planet towards dangerous global warming.

    Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuel has increased the parts per million (ppm) of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is warming the planet. Civilization has prospered for 10,000 with greenhouse gases stable at 280 ppm up until the dawn of the industrial revolution. That figure is now at 392 ppm and rising by an astonishing 1.5 to two ppm per year.

    Changes of just one or two degrees Celsius to the global mean temperature can cause radical changes in the climate -widespread drought in some regions, flooding in others, and more severe and extreme weather events, which undermine agriculture, economic development and public health.

  4. If the U.S. market shrinks, Asia beckons. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has highlighted the importance of getting bitumen oil to Asia. Getting oil (and other commodities) to that region seems to be his government’s highest priority.

    How? The Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C., even if approved (as it certainly will be) by the National Energy Board, faces fierce aboriginal opposition that will tie up the pipeline for years in litigation, to say nothing of political action.

    Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based company, proposes to triple the size of its rather small (300,000 barrels a day) Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver. The announcement that it will seek regulatory approval for the increase fired opposition from mayors throughout B.C., including those in the Lower Mainland. And, of course, aboriginals along the route will object.

    The threats, therefore, to the expansion of Alberta’s bitumen resources come not from environmentalists receiving money from friends in the U.S. but from the shrinking demand for imported oil in that country, and communities, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, along all the proposed B.C. pipeline routes.

  5. Gateway Designed to Pump Far More Crude than Advertised

    Pipes could carry 60 per cent more than now proposed. Result: hundreds more tankers off BC’s coast.

    British Columbians are becoming more aware of two major oil pipeline proposals — Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. These pipelines have been advanced by the government of Canada on behalf of large, multinational oil companies as well as the Chinese government’s mega national oil companies, Sinopec, PetroChina and China National Offshore Oil Company.

    These are huge companies with a huge appetite for getting crude oil to Asia as quickly as possible. To make sure the pipelines go ahead, the Harper government has introduced a new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act allowing cabinet to overrule a National Energy Board no-go decision on both the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s proposals. The new federal rules speed up the process and limit the participation of many individuals and organizations in public hearings.

    But Prime Minister Stephen Harper may need to do more than rush these projects through under cover of legislative shelter. Particularly when British Columbians learn the true magnitude of what these projects mean for tanker traffic.

    So far, Kinder Morgan has told us their twinned pipeline proposal would expand capacity from 300,000 barrels per day and 71 tankers a year to 850,000 barrels per day and more than five times the tankers.

    That’s an oil tanker a day transiting Burrard Inlet.

  6. Canada minister says Northern Gateway line can still go ahead

    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Proponents of the planned Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Canada’s West Coast can still carry the day even though the project has generated a wave of opposition, the country’s natural resources minister said.

    “I am still of the belief that we can get this done, on the assumption, of course, that it passes regulatory muster,” Joe Oliver told Postmedia News in an interview published on Thursday.

    “If the conclusion is this project can be safe for Canadians, safe for the environment … that, I hope, will go a long way in respect at least to people who are kind of open-minded to the facts.”

    Both the federal and Alberta governments, as well as the oil industry, are keen for the C$6 billion Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO: Quote) pipeline to be built to enable the increasing supply of crude from the oil sands to satisfy thirsty Asian markets.

  7. Northern Gateway oil pipeline likely dead after Liberal election win

    The Liberal majority win for Justin Trudeau on Monday likely spells the demise of Enbridge’s proposal to build the Northern Gateway oil pipeline through northern B.C.

    Trudeau said during the election campaign that he opposed the project, telling The Vancouver Sun that “the Great Bear Rainforest is not a place for an oil pipeline.” He also promised a moratorium on oil tankers on the north coast, which would effectively kill the $7.9-billion Gateway project.

    But don’t count out Kinder Morgan’s $5.4-billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion in southern B.C., which would increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.

    B.C.’s liquefied natural gas export plans — which include proposed pipelines and terminals on the coast — don’t appear to face any obstacles from a Liberal government in Ottawa other than a promise to more vigorously engage First Nations. Trudeau has said he is open to LNG tankers on the north coast of B.C.

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