The U.S. government’s temporary halt to the Keystone XL pipeline
coursing through its heartland has turned the focus on Enbridge’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline, a 731-mile project across the Rocky Mountains and historical First Nations lands in Canada, becoming an aggressive effort supported by the Harper government, Alberta province and oil industry.
“There has always been very strong support by the Harper government, by the province of Alberta and by the oil industry for the Northern Gateway pipeline. But there’s no question that for all three of those entities, that urgency increased dramatically with the apparent defeat of Keystone XL,” said George Hoberg, political scientist and professor of forestry at the University of British Columbia, according to the Los Angeles Times
Opponents of the project include environmentalists and members of the First Nations community who see it as a threat to the pristine waters of the region, including tributaries of the Fraser and Skeen rivers, which would be in the path of the proposed pipeline.
Along British Columbia’s coast, the pipeline would create a tangle of more than 200 oil tankers each year, navigating through spectacular Douglas Channel, as they transport the crude eastward to Asia and south to the U.S.
Also at risk is the acclaimed Great Bear rain forest, an iconic symbol of British Columbia and an area of stunning waterfalls and deep blue waters.
“We truly live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We live right at the start of the Fraser River watershed, and if we have a spill, it will devastate everything from here straight to the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver,” said Bev Playfair, a former councilor in Fort James, the Times reports.
While some in the community see tax revenues and job opportunities the pipeline would bring as a boon, others are in for the long fight. Recently, dozens of protesters there marched through the streets prior to a pipeline hearing.
Earlier in February, a huge protest over the proposed pipeline took place in Prince Rupert
, a west coast community in British Columbia. Central to their concerns as well are risks far exceeding any benefits associated with the pipeline. The Prince Rupert demonstration included city councilors and First Nations members.
First Nations of British Columbia are shaping up to be the pipeline’s most formidable foe. Unlike First Nations communities in other provinces, they have never signed government treaties, thereby retaining title to their historic lands.
“We have the ability to go to court in Canada and say, ‘What you are proposing violates the Constitution of Canada.’ And that’s the trump card in all of this,” said Art Sterritt, Coastal First Nations’ Great Bear Initiative director, the Times notes.
Pointing out Enbridge’s accident rate, including the 2010 disaster which spilled at least 810,000 gallons of oil, much of it ending up in the U.S.’s Kalamazoo River - Enbridge has already spent $700 million on its cleanup efforts, still underway - Tribal Chief Jackie Thomas said, “It’s going to be war. The only question is, who’s going to draw the first blood?” the Times reports.
The controversial Northern Gateway pipeline has become a rallying cry for many in Canada viewing the Harper government as a corporate shill and is likely to be at the forefront of Occupy Parliament, scheduled to take place April 20 in Ottawa, Ontario.