Natural resource battle only beginning – by Jason Fekete (Saskatoon Star Phoenix – August 4, 2012)

British Columbia’s brawl with Alberta over the Northern Gateway pipeline and refusal to sign a national energy strategy may be harbingers of battles to come over natural resource developments that are driving the Canadian economy but drawing unprecedented criticism for their environmental impacts.
The petroleum, forestry, mining and electricity sectors are expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs across Canada over the next few decades.
The northern Alberta oilsands, British Columbia’s lucrative shale gas plays, petroleum and potash in Saskatchewan, the Ring of Fire mineral deposit in Northern Ontario, Quebec’s massive Plan Nord resource project and offshore petroleum riches in the Arctic and Atlantic Canada — all are part of the country’s eye popping resource bounty.
The Harper government has already identified natural resource development as a priority, and recently announced sweeping changes to expedite approvals and allow it to make final decisions on pipeline projects deemed in the national interest.
Canada’s premiers also recognize the value of the natural resources sector to their provincial and territorial economies, with 12 of the 13 leaders supporting an updated Canadian energy strategy (B.C. has opted out until its economic and environmental demands on the Northern Gateway are met).
But with the promises of jobs, economic development and lucrative royalties come an increasing number of battles among the provinces as well as with environmental groups, First Nations and even foreign governments over the impacts of natural resource projects.
“We’re going to see more skirmishes occur. Are we in the new norm? Perhaps,” said David Sawyer, vice-president of climate and energy with the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “The brawling over project approvals has always happened. It has intensified because there’s a perception risk is not adequately addressed.”
Sawyer believes opposition to natural resource development has increased because major projects are spreading beyond oil and gas extraction in Alberta – where people have grown to accept the energy sector as a way of life – and to a series of new mega-developments across Canada.
“Whether it’s new wind turbines in P.E.I. or major mines in Northern Ontario, new development in populated or somewhat populated areas is going to cause problems. That’s just the way it is,” he said.
The B.C. government has already said it will oppose a pair of proposed pipeline projects that would ship oilsands crude from Alberta to the West Coast unless a set of five economic and environmental conditions are met, including B.C. getting its “fair share” of the economic benefits.
For the rest of this column, please go to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix website:

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