The 209 conditions attached to a federal joint review panel's sanction of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are meant to address a myriad of safety, environmental and financial concerns, but still do not satisfy the most ardent opponents of the project.
The conditions include a requirement for the project backed by Enbridge Inc. to ensure $950-million in liability coverage. Northern Gateway Pipelines Inc. must also develop a marine mammal protection plan, create a research program on the cleanup of heavy oils, build emergency preparations, and follow a host of engineering specifications.
Almost all of the conditions were laid out last April, when the National Energy Board released 199 potential conditions should the pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast win approval. On Thursday, when the panel released its final report on the project, a dozen tweaks to the previous list had been made and 10 new stipulations were added.
In June, Enbridge argued against the national energy regulator's demand for almost $1-billion in liability coverage for the $6.5-billion project, saying a fund supported by industry members could be the best way to ensure pipeline operators have enough to cover "a highly unlikely but higher-cost spill." But it appears the panel did not take that resistance to heart.
On Thursday, Enbridge officials spoke in broad terms about the conditions, saying they need to do a closer review. But Enbridge chief executive Al Monaco said that, at first blush, there are no major surprises.
"Expectedly, they're tough," said Mr. Monaco, whose company is the lead proponent of the project. "The first thing we need to do is work through those conditions, one by one."
However, environmentalists said on Thursday the possibility of an oil tanker spill is still too great a risk. First Nations representatives said the joint review panel process did not address many of their concerns, especially their constitutionally protected rights in traditional lands. Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation said he is skeptical about any promised improvements.
"I don't care how many conditions there are, I will stand to protect B.C. as much as I can," he said in an interview. "Our last stand will be to go to court."
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said her government is committed to the five conditions it spelled out in July, 2012, including that Northern Gateway have world-leading responses to oil spills on water, address First Nations' concerns and ensure economic benefits for the province. Federal cabinet will decide whether the project gets the final green light in about six months. Cabinet can request that the NEB reconsider its recommendation, or any of its conditions.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the cleanup bill for Enbridge's oil spill into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 could go to almost $1-billion. And in June, Ottawa said it will expect major crude oil pipelines to have a minimum financial capability of $1-billion.