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Building a pipeline?

Although the federal government has given conditional approval for the Northern Gateway project to go ahead, one UBCO professor is not holding his breath that actual construction will begin any time soon.

Kevin Hanna is an associate professor of geography at UBCO, who specializes in environmental sustainability, environmental impact assessment practices and policy relating to mega resource projects. He is not surprised at the announcement, and believes this to be just another small step in an approval process that could take many more years.

“Despite the fact that Enbridge has spent a lot of money and a lot of time in advertising and public relations to try and sway public opinion, it just hasn’t happened,” he says.

“It’s not to say that British Columbian’s are anti-pipeline, but I think they’re certainly anti-this pipeline.

“This is not a thoroughbred project, it’s an arthritic badger that’s kind of coughing and heaving its way to the finish line. Frankly, I give it a 30 per cent chance of ever seeing any construction within the next decade.”

Hanna points to three important factors that he thinks stand in the way of the project ever coming to fruition:

  • The province has still not signed off on the pipeline, and could hold up any construction. None of Premier Chisty Clark’s five conditions have been met.
  • First Nations and aboriginal communities in northern BC do not want this pipeline and have the potential to tie the matter up in legal red tape for years to come.
  • Public opinion regarding the pipeline in BC continues to be extremely negative.

There is also the argument that when it’s finished, if at all, the project would realistically bring little benefit to British Columbians. Only around 550 long term jobs are predicated to come from construction of the pipeline, and half of those would go to Alberta. There will be no other job creation and few other ways to make money off the project.

“I can see the BC government looking at this and saying, ‘there’s a lot of headaches in this and not much in it for us’. We just don’t know how we’re going to prosper off this. It’s good for Alberta, but in terms of direct benefits for BC, there’s just nothing there,” says Hanna.

There is also the environmental concern that is foremost in many people’s minds, especially the First Nations, who have already announced they have rejected the decision and will immediately go to court to stop the project.

Hanna meanwhile thinks the Keystone XL pipeline has a better chance to moving forward to completion, as rising tensions in the Middle East will force the United States government to explore oil options closer to their home soil.


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