NOTE: This story has been updated to include comment from Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth, acting Haisla Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Northern Gateway president John Carruthers, and Port of Prince Rupert corporate communications manager Michael Gurney.
Ten years after Northern Gateway was proposed, the federal government has decided the project will not be going ahead.
The decision was announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. The original announcement was supposed to be delivered last Friday, but was delayed until Trudeau met with cabinet Tuesday morning.
“It has become clear that this project is not in the best interest of the local affected communities, including Indigenous peoples,” said the prime minister.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline, and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic.”
The 1,177 kilometre twin pipeline, owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, was proposed in 2006, and would take diluted bitumen from Bruderheim, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C., and then send natural gas condensate from the coast back to Alberta, with a price tag of $7.9 billion CDN.
The project was approved by the former Conservative-led federal government in 2014, and was subject to 209 conditions. That approval was overturned by the Federal Court earlier this year in June, after finding that Indigenous groups along the pipeline’s route had not been properly consulted, with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr saying that the government would not be appealing the court’s decision.
The project was also complicated by the tanker ban along the B.C.’s North Coast imposed by Trudeau in 2015. The ban would prevent super-tankers from transporting bitumen to overseas markets, meaning there is no way bitumen shipped through Northern Gateway would get out of the country via the Douglas Channel.
Northern Gateway president John Carruthers released a statement late Tuesday afternoon, saying that the proponents were “disappointed” by the rejection.
“We had hoped that the Government would fulfil its constitutional and legal obligations and engage in meaningful and thorough Crown consultation on our project as recommended by the Federal Court of Appeal,” he wrote.
“Although we are saddened by this decision and while it may not be the news we had hoped for, we are very proud of the strong partnerships we have formed with Indigenous communities and stakeholders and believe our model of engagement, inclusion, equity ownership and governance should be embraced by large scale energy projects.”
The pipeline has been a contentious project since it was announced, with vocal disapproval from Aboriginal communities along the proposed right of way, as well as the District of Kitimat, where the marine terminal would be located. Kitimat residents voted in opposition of the project in a 2014 plebiscite, with a margin of 58.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent, with 62 per cent of the town casting their votes.
The marine terminal would be located on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, who have also vehemently opposed the project.
“This is a victory not just for the Haisla Nation but for all of British Columbia. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the other Aboriginal Nations who challenged this project, to the citizens of Kitimat who voted in a plebiscite to say no to Northern Gateway, and to all those many British Columbians who stood with us in this struggle to protect a truly unique and pristine ecosystem,” said Crystal Smith, acting Chief Councillor.
Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth said that his staff were not surprised by the decision.
“Of course, from our plebiscite in 2014, having a majority of the community say they were not supportive of the project, we support the decision by the federal government.”
“We’re in support of a federal tanker ban only on unrefined products, we would not support one if they were to impose it upon refined products,” Germuth added.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen told reporters Tuesday that Canadians will have to see which direction Trudeau takes the legislated tanker ban.
“Mr. Trudeau mentioned that this would be in law. The devil is always in the detail in these things,” he said.
“I put a bill on notice paper just last night to re-introduce the bill that I first introduced in 2010 to allow a North Coast tanker ban so one company doesn’t follow right in behind this one and continue the conflict.”
Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communications for the Port of Prince Rupert, also offered a comment regarding the decision.
“The Port of Prince Rupert shares the federal government’s goal of increasing marine safety and heightening environmental protection. Over 3,300 full time employees of port-related industry live and work in northern BC, and we know how important marine environments are for our communities, First Nations and other industries. We all have a role to play in making the west coast even safer for marine transportation,” he said in a statement.
The federal government also made a decision Tuesday on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 pipeline, which would run from Hardisty, Alta., to Superior, Wisc. and cross through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota, with a cost of $7.5 billion. That pipeline was approved in April by the National Energy Board with 89 conditions. The pipeline needs state regulator approvals in the U.S still.
The federal government also approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline extension, with 157 conditions from the National Energy Board. That project will expand the current pipeline and transport 890,000 barrels per day. According to the Kinder Morgan website, the expansion would add approximately 980 kilometres of new pipeline and reactivate 193 kilometres of existing pipeline. New facilities would include 12 new pump stations, and 19 new tanks added to existing storage terminals.