Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pipeline rules or Aboriginal rules?

“Oil-sands pipeline hits its highest hurdle
Ottawa warns of foreign-financed “radicals” but opposition is led by a business-minded first nation.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated, January 9, 2012 and written by a David Ebner.

“Public vetting of Enbridge’s proposed $6.6-billion Northern Gateway oil-sands pipeline begins Tuesday (Today, January 10, 2012).”

Someone has said, “The mother of all hearings starts today.”

So, is the Gateway pipeline approval a forgone conclusion? Yes, based on the National Energy Board  (NEB) and its history of approving projects, Some say it's a done deal. After all, the NEB’s motto is “In the National Interest.” But, the process, like most projects, will not be without any hurdles. Already, the government is weighing in and some say, are trying to meddle in the process.

Picture from the GLOBE AND MAIL
 “The Conservative government will bring forward new rules to greatly shorten environmental reviews of pipelines and other major projects, arguing that “radical groups” are exploiting the reviews to block proposals vital to Canada’s economic future.” So, what “new rules?” For one, a Timeline.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources has said, “…a definite timeline would provide certainty to the participants who are sponsoring the project.” Seems, from the government perspective, some say , if a company applies to build a pipeline, that company will “certainly” be approved.

Introducing new rules though does not omit the “highest hurdle”…Aboriginal opposition?

The arguments concerning native land rights and environmental impact promise a regulatory fight that could travel all the way to the Supreme Court. “The struggle to transport the harvest of Alberta’s vast oil sands enters a new arena this week – a village on the rugged British Columbia coast where the hopes of Canada’s biggest pipeline operator will meet a business-savvy first nation with little appetite for black gold.”

Enter the Haisla First Nation. They are doing business as well as any oil company. Still, regarding the construction of the proposed pipeline, Ellis Ross, Haisla chief councillor has said, “We don’t think that’s in the National Interest.”

The Hearings start today and is hosted by the Haisla First Nation. For the NEB, why not start at the highest hurdle…but it doesn’t mean it’s downhill from there.