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article imageFirst Nations-led pipeline plan may succeed where others fail

By Karen Graham     May 7, 2018 in World
Vancouver - Most people have probably never heard of the Eagle Spirit Energy pipeline, but for the past five years, the head of the project has quietly been working to get the $17-billion oil pipeline project from Alberta to the West Coast up and running.
"We are now putting together a very solid commercial plan for how we are going to do this," said CEO Calvin Helin last week, reports CBC Canada.
Helin is a member of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation located on the northern coast of British Columbia, not too far from Prince Rupert. The proposed pipeline linking Alberta's oil sands with the West Coast would terminate in Prince Rupert.
The 1,500 kilometer (932 miles) pipeline would carry up to two million barrels of medium to heavy crude oil a day from Fort McMurray to the West Coast. The project has the backing of Vancouver's Aquilini Investment Group, owner of the Canucks and a major real-estate developer.
In an interview last week, Helin said that amid the political squabbling going on over the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, his alternative Eagle Spirit pipeline idea has picked up steam, gaining a new lease on life. “There has been a change in tone recently. We’ve gone from an idea five years ago, an exercise, to a commercially realistic plan,” Mr. Helin said
:If the tanker ban become law  Eagle Spirit has an alternative plan that would make use of the Portl...
:If the tanker ban become law, Eagle Spirit has an alternative plan that would make use of the Portland Canal to bing tankers to Hyder, Alaska for loading. Image shows docks at the head of Portland Canal at Stewart, BC...
Murray Foubister
Helin claims he has secured Indigenous consent along Eagle Spirit’s northern route from Alberta to British Columbia and, crucially, approval from the Lax Kw’alaams Band at the proposed export terminal site at Grassy Point.
Skepticism still persists over Eagle Spirit
Coastal First Nations, a coalition of nine Indigenous groups that includes the Gitga’at, are urging the federal government to enact a planned ban on large oil tankers on the North Coast.
Gitga’at chief councilor Arnold Clifton, says the proposed Indigenous-led pipeline is nothing more than a pipe-dream because of the expected passage this year of Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act. “I think Eagle Spirit is a big joke," he said.
Bill Gallagher, a lawyer who examines conflicts between First Nations and energy developers, says that while the idea of an energy corridor across Northern B.C. is a good one, Eagle Spirit isn't necessarily the answer to Alberta's prayers for getting its oil to the coast.
But realistic or not, Eagle Spirit has caught the eye and ears of oil sands industry officials who like the idea of an innovative project led by Indigenous leaders.
“We see a lot of First Nations supporting the northern project that Calvin and his team are moving forward,” said Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
And Oil producers like Cenovus Energy Inc., MEG Energy Corp., and Suncor Energy Inc. have all expressed interest in signing up for capacity on Eagle Spirit.
The Inner harbor in Ucluelet  Vancouver Island  B.C.
The Inner harbor in Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Tourism Ucluelet
What about the tanker ban?
According to the Financial Post in February, Vancouver-based Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd. has a backup plan already in place if the tanker ban is enacted this year - they will site their terminal across the border, in Alaska.
Spirit Eagle has signed a memorandum of understanding with Roanan Corp., a private landowner in Hyder, an old gold-rush town on the Alaska side of the Canada/U.S. border at the head of the Portland Canal, as the terminus for the pipeline. Tankers could load Canadian oil and sail through the disputed waters of Dixon Entrance, claimed by both Canada and the United States as they head for Asia.
Border between Stewart  British Columbia  Canada and Hyder  Alaska  USA.
Border between Stewart, British Columbia, Canada and Hyder, Alaska, USA.
And while Vancouver, BC-based Roanan Corp and Spirit Eagle may have signed an agreement to build the oil terminal in the U.S., that doesn't mean someone is not going to hear about it and raise a stink.
Roanan’s president and CEO, Walter Moa, says Hyder is an ideal spot because it has a deep water port, and the company holds port, townsite and mineral claims in the area, he said.
“Alaska is in general very supportive of resource development,” Moa said in an emailed statement. “As with any new development, local, state and federal support is important.” He should of been a bit more clear - mentioning that environmentalists will have something to say about an oil terminal in Hyder.
This particular story is going to gain momentum simply because there are many people on the American side of the border who don't want any pipeline terminals along West Coast waters, either.
More about pipeline project, Eagle Spirit Energy pipeline, Northern BC, First nations, Oilsands
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