Keystone XL Opponents Wrong Again: Canadian Panel Recommends Northern Gateway Pipeline

  • Keystone XL opponents were wrong: a Canadian panel has recommended building the Northern Gateway pipeline
  • Opponents are also wrong that stopping a pipeline would stop oil sands development
  • The Northern Gateway pipeline could transport oil sands to countries like China; meanwhile Americans are still waiting for Keystone XL

Big news this week: a panel of Canadian energy regulators has recommended the approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

You may remember that this summer, when news broke that the government of British Columbia had opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline – specifically “in its current form” by the way – Keystone XL opponents immediately claimed victory.  As Bill McKibben then said, “British Columbians just slammed the door on the most obvious other way, so now it’s up to President Obama.”

Billionaire Keystone XL opponent Tom Steyer jumped on the news, writing an open letter to President Obama boldly proclaiming,

“With Friday’s announcement that the Canadian provincial government of British Columbia opposes the transportation of tar sands oil over their lands, the last of the arguments for the development of the Keystone Pipeline has collapsed.”

But as OSFC put it in a June 4 blog post, opponents had better not pop the champagne just yet.  As we said,

“The Joint Review Panel will consider the views of British Columbia as well as the Alberta government, which has expressed strong support for the project.  Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver also highlighted in a release that the process is not over.  As he said, ‘An independent, comprehensive, science-based evaluation of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline is currently underway’ – and while he stressed the importance of safe development, he also emphasized that ‘diversifying our export markets for energy remains a critical priority for our government.’  In the end, it is a federal process and ultimately the decision will be made by the Federal Government.”

Well, the Joint Review Panel has now evaluated all the comments and concluded that the Northern Gateway pipeline is in Canada’s best interest.  As Politico Pro reported,

“’After weighing all of the oral and written evidence, the panel found that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project than without it,’ the panel said in a statement.”

But it’s not just that opponents were wrong about the Northern Gateway Project – they were also wrong to jump to the conclusion that stopping this pipeline, or any pipeline for that matter, would have any effect on stopping the development of Canadian oil sands.  Even Bloomberg’s headline on the Northern Gateway Project story, “Enbridge’s Pipeline Win Shows Stopping Keystone Won’t Stop Oil” is a testament to that fact.  Bloomberg goes on to report:

Keystone XL backers say the proliferation of alternative projects, such as one to carry tar sands to a Canadian seaport that advanced yesterday, undercuts opponents who claim blocking the pipeline will keep the high-carbon crude in the ground.

Canadian energy regulators yesterday recommended approval with conditions of Enbridge Inc. (ENB)’s Northern Gateway pipeline, a project that would bring as much as 525,000 barrels a day of oil sands to a port at Kitimat, British Columbia. The recommendation, by the National Energy Board, leaves the final decision up to federal government.

The announcement follows an expansion of rail terminals to haul crude and other proposals, such as one by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP:US) to almost triple the capacity of a line to Vancouver or TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s plan to convert a gas line to oil.

It’s worth highlighting that the Northern Gateway pipeline will run to Kitimat, British Columbia, to provide access for international exports.  In other words, it could facilitate oil sands exports to countries like China, rather than the United States.

Meanwhile Americans are still waiting for President Obama to say yes to Keystone XL.

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