We Don't 'Trust' You: British Columbia Rejects Tars Sands Pipeline

Protesters against Enbridge's toxic pipeline (Todd Korol/Reuters)

We Don't 'Trust' You: British Columbia Rejects Tars Sands Pipeline

Pressure is on for Obama to follow suit after Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal shot down

The government of British Columbia formally rejected the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on Friday, saying that the corporation behind the project failed to address the environmental concerns tied to the tar sands project.

"The project... is not a typical pipeline," the province wrote in a letter to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel. "For example: the behavior in water of the material to be transported is incompletely understood; the terrain the pipeline would cross is not only remote, it is in many places extremely difficult to access; the impact of spills into pristine river environments would be profound,"

"(Enbridge Northern Gateway) has presented little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill," the letter said. "'Trust me' is not good enough in this case."

A victory for environmentalists and indigenous communities who have aggressively opposed the pipeline, the rejection is a major setback for the multi-billion dollar infrastructure project in which Enbridge planned to lay pipe from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, passing through sensitive ecological watersheds and First Nation lands.

'Trust me' is not good enough.

As 350.org founder Bill McKibben said Friday, the decision marks an important win for the climate movement. Anti-tar sands campaigners will now be looking for Obama to follow suit and reject TransCanada's bid to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline--a separate export route for Alberta's tar sands that would pass south to the Texas coast.

"For years the tar sands promoters have said: 'if we don't build Keystone XL the tar sands will get out some other way,'" McKibben said in a statement.

But, he continued, "British Columbians just slammed the door on the most obvious other way, so now it's up to President Obama. If he approve Keystone XL he bails out the Koch Brothers and other tar sands investors; if he rejects the pipeline, then an awful lot of that crude is going to stay in the ground where it belongs."

In Canada, it seems, the public pressure against the pipeline worked as Enbridge was repeatedly rebuffed by activists and scientists when they claimed the pipeline would not have negative impacts.

"When you look at the terrain the pipeline crosses, there are some places that are nearly inaccessible so the company was unable to give us adequate detail about how they would respond to a spill in some of these locations," Environment Minister Terry Lake said of the inevitable spills in Canada's pristine natural habitats.

"When we get on the marine environment there's a lot of questions about the behavior of this product in cold marine environments and a recognition that more research needs to be done on whether this material would float or whether it would sink," Lake continued, "because obviously that makes a difference in terms of any potential spill and how it would be dealt with."

Lake said the submission Friday does not completely kill the possibility of the pipeline being built, but it makes it far more difficult for Enbridge to attain approval.

"Until the National Energy Board is able to process all this and deliver a final verdict, we don't want to conclude that this is absolutely a no," he said. "But we're just saying from what we've seen to date, it doesn't meet the test."


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