Northern Gateway process unclear, more consultation seen after ruling

 

 

  • 21 Sep 2016
  • Calgary Herald
  • GEOFFREY MORGAN

Pipeline facing ‘uncharted’ path

Northern Gateway process unclear, more consultation seen after ruling

The regulatory process governing the fate of the Northern Gateway pipeline is moving into unknown territory, legal experts said Tuesday, after Enbridge Inc. and Ottawa accepted that there had been a lack of consultation with aboriginal groups during the original review.

John Carruthers, president of Enbridge unit Northern Gateway, and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr both said Tuesday they would not appeal a court decision issued this summer that overturned approvals for the $7.9-billion pipeline project.

The Federal Court of Appeal denied the approvals for the pipeline, which would carry oilsands crude from Alberta across northern British Columbia to the West Coast, over a lack of meaningful consultation by Ottawa with aboriginal groups.

A spokesperson for Carr said in an email the government is considering its next steps, but Carruthers said he expects that Ottawa will undertake more consultations “because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Our belief is that the government should enter into that collaborative consultation process,” Carruthers said, adding that consultation rather than more litigation is “the best path forward.”

Legal experts and pipeline industry veterans say there is no defined process for the pipeline project from this point forward.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Vancouver-based energy lawyer Warren Brazier said.

In the short term, the federal government has a duty to consult with affected aboriginal groups along the pipeline route to correct the lack of consultation in the original process overseen by the National Energy Board.

While the additional consultations are expected to last four months, Carruthers said the government is not bound by specific deadlines or a timeline as it consults with aboriginal groups.

Once those consultations wrap up, however, Brazier said it’s unclear what will happen next or how the regulatory process will unfold or to what extent the NEB — which itself is undergoing changes as Ottawa revamps its processes — will be involved in issuing final reports on the project.

One pipeline industry veteran who asked not to be named said the regulatory process is in flux and predicting a timeline or series of events for Northern Gateway is like “trying to connect invisible dots.”

Carruthers said he believes the government has two options at the end of the additional consultation. It could either simply reject the project, or refer it back to the NEB, which could impose additional conditions on Northern Gateway.

The NEB originally recommended the federal government approve the project in 2014 — subject to 209 conditions. But court challenges have prevented Enbridge from sanctioning Northern Gateway and construction work has yet to begin.

Carruthers said there is no timeline for when the project could be in service because, in part, “there is too much uncertainty.” He said, for example, it’s unclear whether the federal government will ask the NEB to impose additional conditions on the project and it’s unclear how many new conditions there might be.

He said Northern Gateway continues to consult with aboriginal communities along the route and would help Ottawa in its consultations as required.

The federal government has not indicated whether it will conduct more consultations, but the aboriginal groups that do support the pipeline project demanded Ottawa undertake that process.

“The federal government has publicly stated they are committed to reconciliation with First Nation and Metis communities,” a group of First Nations and Metis equity partners in the pipeline said in a release.

“As such, we are now calling on this same government to actively and fully undertake the required consultation as directed by the Federal Court of Appeal in relation to the Northern Gateway project,” they said.

 

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on September 21, 2016, in economic impact, miscellaneous, oil, political. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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