Enbridge is asking the National Energy Board for three more years to clear the way for construction of its $6.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat for shipment to refineries overseas.
In May 6 filings, the company says it needs more time to meet conditions and to line up the support of aboriginal and Metis communities along the pipeline’s 1,177km route.
Although the federal government gave its approval to the pipeline in 2014, the company must first meet 209 conditions set down by regulators.
That approval was contingent upon Enbridge either starting the pipeline or its Kitimat export terminal by the end of the year, something not likely to happen given the extension request.
The request was supported by a group of aboriginal and First Nations people called Aboriginal Equity Partners (AEP).
This group, which AEP says numbers 18 First Nations and Metis communities in Alberta and 13 in British Columbia, was formed two years ago and given the opportunity at first to buy a 10 per cent equity stake in the pipeline. That’s since been increased to 33 per cent.
The AEP estimates there’s a $2 billion benefit from Northern Gateway for aboriginal and Metis people made up of equity, business contracts, employment and community investment.
The group is represented by four people called stewards but a list of the AEP participants has never been released with Enbridge saying it is up to those who have signed agreements with it to identify themselves if they wish.
“With our influence and guidance, Northern Gateway is changing and we are taking a leadership role. The process of change based on First Nations and Métis collaboration will continue,” the four AEP stewards said in a release.
They also said the AEP participation number has increased from 26 to 31 communities in the past two years.
Two of the stewards live in Alberta and two in B.C., with one of the latter being Terrrace resident Elmer Derrick, a Gitxsan hereditary chief.
In speaking to the extension request, Northern Gateway president John Carruthers said the company needs to continue building a relationship with aboriginal and Metis people.
“Northern Gateway has changed,” Carruthers said. “We are making progress and remain open to further changes. We believe this is the right course of action for Northern Gateway and the right thing to do as Canadians. We know this process requires time and we are committed to getting it right.”
Information provided by the AEP indicates it has regular meetings with government officials and, on May 3, met with Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde in what was called “an all leaders gathering” in Vancouver.
An Enbridge official subsequently turned down a request for a list of who attended, saying “for privacy reasons, the attendees of the meeting asked that the list not be shared.”
Meanwhile, a group of First Nations on the coast called the Coastal First Nations says it is hypocritical of Enbridge to ask for the extension.
Coastal First Nations Chair Kelly Russ said Enbridge in fact has little support from First Nations. He also said the federal government has promised to ban oil carrying tankers from the coast.