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Enbridge/Northern Gateway Pipeline, Canada

BC First Nations and supporters successfully oppose Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project. Project cancelled in 2016.


The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project aimed to link the oilsands region of Alberta to a shipping terminal in Kitimat, on the northwest coast of B.C., opening the door for more Canadian oil exports to be sent across the Pacific Ocean to Asia. The project was fiercely opposed by BC First Nations and environmental groups. In 2016, the project was officially cancelled.  The proposed project was to build a twin pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. The eastbound pipeline would have imported natural gas condensate and the westbound pipeline would have exported diluted bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands to a marine terminal in Kitimat for transportation to Asian markets via oil tankers. The project would have also included terminal facilities with "integrated marine infrastructure at tidewater to accommodate loading and unloading of oil and condensate tankers, and marine transportation of oil and condensate"[1].  The $CDN 7.9 billion project was proposed in mid-2000s and has been postponed several times [2]. The proposed project would have been developed by Enbridge Inc., a Canadian crude oil and liquids pipeline and storage company [1]. Proponents argued that the pipeline would have provided Indigenous communities with equity ownership, employment, Community Trust and stewardship programs. Enbridge claimed the pipeline will create over 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs in B.C, which it says would translate to $32 million per year in earned income flowing into local economies [2].  First Nations groups, many municipalities, including the Union of BC Municipalities, environmentalists and oil sands opponents, among others, denounced the project because of the environmental, economic, social and cultural risks posed. Opposition to the pipeline was based in concern about the risk of oil spills and leaks, the effects on the environment and the risks from increased tanker traffic through B.C.'s Douglas Channel. Enbridge has a spotty record regarding spills, such as the Kalamazoo spill of 2010. Opponents also denounced Prime Minister Stephen Harpers Conservative government for proposed legislative changes they say would weaken environmental protections and limit the ability of environmental groups to intervene in project-assessment hearings. Opponents were also against the increased production from the oilsands, which they say will just further increase greenhouse gases and pollution [2]. The Fraser Declaration, signed by 130 First Nations, reads: “Water is life, for our peoples and for all living things that depend on it. The Fraser River and its tributaries are our lifeline. A threat to the Fraser and its headwaters is a threat to all who depend on its health. We will not allow our fish, animals, plants, people and ways of life to be placed at risk…..Therefore, in upholding our ancestral laws, Title, Rights and responsibilities, we declare: We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon” [3].  The Federal Court of Appeal ultimately ruled that consultation with First Nations was inadequate and overturned the approval [1]. Timeline: 2005: Enbridge signed a cooperation agreement with PetroChina to ensure the utilization of pipeline capacity. PetroChina agreed to buy about 200 thousand barrels per day transported through the pipeline [1].  2006: Project announced.  2007: PetroChina withdrew from the projects because of delays in starting the project [1].  December 2009: Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) issued the Joint Review Panel Agreement and the terms of reference for the environmental and regulatory review of the Northern Gateway Pipelines [1].  May 2010: Enbridge Northern Gateway submitted its project application to the National Energy Board[1].  December 2010: 130 First Nations bands in British Columbia, including many along the proposed pipeline route, signed the Save The Fraser Declaration in opposition to oil pipelines through First Nation traditional territories [1].  June 2014: the Northern Gateway pipeline project was approved by the Harper federal government, subject to 209 conditions [1].  2015: PM Justin Trudeau imposed a ban on oil tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia, effectively killing the project [1].  November 2016: Trudeau officially rejected plans for the pipeline [1].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Enbridge/Northern Gateway Pipeline, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Kitimat
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The planned project consisted of two parallel pipelines between an inland terminal at Bruderheim, Alberta, and a marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, each with a length of 1,177 kilometers. Crude oil produced from oil sands would be transported from Bruderheim to Kitimat, while natural gas condensate would move in the opposite direction. Condensate would be used as a diluent in oil refining to decrease the viscosity of heavy crude oil from oil sands, and to make it easier to transport by pipelines. About 520 kilometers of pipeline would have run in Alberta and 657 kilometers in British Columbia. The crude oil pipeline would have a diameter of 36 inches and a capacity of 525 thousand barrels per day. The condensate pipeline would have a diameter of 20 inches with a capacity of 193 thousand barrels per day [1].

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project7.9 billion Canadian dollars
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2010
End of the conflict:11/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Enbridge Inc from Canada
Relevant government actors:Federal Government
BC Provincial Government.
Many First Nations
Union of BC Municipalities
Canada's National Energy Board (NEB)
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Raincoast Conservation Foundation,
Yinka-Dene Alliance,
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council,
Gitxaala First Nation Chief Elmer Moody,
Pembina Institute
West Coast Environmental Law
Dogwood Initiative
International League of Conservation Photographers
Greenpeace Canada
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Refusal of compensation
Gitxaala filed legal action in federal court claiming it should not be excluded from a Transport Canada review assessing Northern Gateways proposed shipping routes and marine terminals.

The proposed oil tanker routes pass through Gitxaala territories, but the First Nation is not part of the transport review process, said the band.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Food insecurity (crop damage), Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsAs the type of oil to be transported is substantively different than conventional crude oil, ejos fear it will make the pipeline more likely to corrode, leak or break.
Of the hundreds of rivers Northern Gateway is set to cross, 83 are deemed highly sensitive, such as salmon spawning streams, or home to rare aquatic wildlife.
The project is also said to threaten the endangered humpback whale.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Proposal and development of alternatives:The proposal of the EJOs is to stop developing dirty tarsands oil.
The Yinka Dene Alliance and Fraser Declaration constitutes an unprecedented coming together and galvanizing of First Nations from across BC.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Project stopped!
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

In December 2010, the federal House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

[1] (Wikipedia, Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines)
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[2] (CBC News, 2013) Northern Gateway pipeline project: 6 things to know. CBC News.
[click to view]

[3] (Save the Fraser Declaration, 2010)
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enbridge pipeline threatens humpback whales off bc coast dfo/6442597444/story.html
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Meta information
Contributor:Leah Temper (updated by Jen Gobby in 2019)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:376
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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