Yesterday, the federal government announced its approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline (with 209 conditions suggested by the Joint Review Panel). The approval is reckless, and flies in the face of an overwhelming amount of evidence against the project. First Nations said no, British Columbians said no, the B.C. government said no, and countless experts, scientists, and concerned citizens have said no.
But, despite the government’s approval, the pipeline won’t be built. The pipeline is destined for legal purgatory for years.
The government may rubber stamp resource projects, but it can’t steamroll First Nations rights, the B.C. government, and an entire province that has said all along that no means no. Expect this project to be tied up in the courts for years and face opposition throughout the province and across Canada. Environmental Defence will support First Nations and British Columbians as long as it takes to finally put an end to this pipeline in the courts and on the ground.
In a powerful statement last week, Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations, said: “Whatever decision the federal government makes on the Northern Gateway project is irrelevant. The project is over, dead. It is never going to receive the social license it needs from First Nations or British Colombians.”
His words reflect what most Canadians and North Americans have known for ages. The Northern Gateway pipeline is the definition of a reckless project and there is no way that it is going to wrangle its way through the opposition. It is unbuildable.
The pipeline would carry half a million barrels of tar sands oil over the Rocky Mountains, through the Great Bear Rainforest , cross over 800 rivers and streams before being loaded onto tankers that would have to navigate some of the most dangerous waters in the Pacific Northwest. The risks to the coast, forest, water, ecosystems and our climate are astronomical.
Northern Gateway would enable the expansion of the tar sands, Canada’s fastest growing source of global warming emissions and one of the highest polluting oils on the planet. And with a world weaning itself off its dangerous addiction to oil, it just doesn’t make sense to build major, new, and risky infrastructure projects to move last century’s dirty fossil fuels.
The pipeline will not be built. That’s the good news. The other good news is that Northern Gateway changed the conversation. It will never be a no-brainer to build a major tar sands pipeline again in North America. Any major tar sands projects, whether Energy East or Keystone XL, will face loud and continued opposition. Expect to see more delays and cancellations.
Canadians are ready for a real conversation about our energy and economic future. We have a choice. We don’t need to follow the irresponsible route of rapid tar sands expansion, which will sink our climate and saddle our economy to high cost, high carbon oil that is on its way out of style.
Instead, we can choose to build a clean economy. We can have a strong economy and a healthy environment. We can build a country that makes people proud and a future that everyone wants to be a part of. From better, faster, cleaner transportation, to moving and selling clean energy rather than dirty oil, to tapping into our huge potential for innovation in clean technology, Canada is teeming with opportunities to build a better path.
Around the world, other countries are powering their economies with clean, safe renewable energy. Canada is at risk of being left behind.
So now what?
Northern Gateway is off the table. Court cases have already been filed. Expect more to follow and the protests to continue.
Instead of trying to build gigantic, risky pipelines carrying last century’s fuel, let’s use the same skills, innovation, and can-do attitude to build a better Canada based on a low-carbon economy.
And if the tar sands industry and government isn’t ready to let go of the tar sands, let’s make sure they continue to hear from Canadians who know a better future is possible. Let’s continue to speak out against risky pipelines like Energy East. Let’s say no to irresponsible tar sands expansion and yes to the clean energy future we all deserve.