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If there were any doubts Enbridge Inc. faces an epic battle over its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and the British Columbia coast, a cross-border coalition representing environmentalists and First Nations put that to rest Tuesday as it launched the opening salvo against the $5.5-billion project.
Along with releasing a report on the dangers of oil sands transport, the coalition provided a taste of its strategy: it’ll fight the project before regulators, in the court of public opinion, by legal means if necessary and by using civil disobedience.
“As a famous prime minister once said, just watch us,” Gerald Amos, a member of the Haisla First Nation near the pipeline’s Kitimat end point and director of the Headwaters Initiative, warned in a conference call with reporters to kick off the campaign.
“Everyone involved, including myself, have made commitments to one another, that we will do whatever it takes, legally and otherwise, to stop this project.”
With the environmental movement emboldened by its success in getting U.S. President Barack Obama to delay the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, defeating Northern Gateway would represent another big coup to keep the oil sands industry from developing markets for its product.
The groups joined forces just as the project enters a critical stage. Public hearings by a Joint Review Panel (JRP) on behalf of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, start in Kitimat on Jan. 10. Some 4,000 people and groups are expected to address the panel.
The coalition includes the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leader in the campaign against Keystone; the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, a vocal oil sands opponent; the British Columbia-based Living Oceans Society, a group focused on marine conservation.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director for the NRDC, said the campaign targets both oil sands growth and its transportation.
“We really don’t need expansion of tar sands,” she said. “But most important … there really is no safe risk-free way to get oil sands oil and pipelines and super tankers across British Columbia’s eco system. The communities who live in these regions depend on these resources. It doesn’t seem worth the risk … when you look at who is benefiting, the major oil companies that are extracting the tar sands.”
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post/Financial Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2011/11/29/first-salvo-launched-against-north-gateway/