As Christmas nears I am preparing a final update of some updates around Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline this month. The first bit of news involves Liberal MP Joyce Murray, who has brought forward a Private Member’s Bill to ban tankers off British Columbia’s North Coast.

On December 14, Liberal MP from Vancouver Quadra, Joyce Murray introduced a bill in Parliament to formalize in law the a ban on crude oil tanker traffic in coastal waters. Bill C-606 entrenches former Prime Minister’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s 1972 moratorium on oil tankers in the hazardous waters of the North Coast.

Trudeau’s ban was put in place to protect the British Columbian Coast from American crude oil shipping through coastal waters. The threat today, however, is caused by a domestic source. The proposed marine terminal at the terminus of the Northern Gateway Pipeline would introduce oil tankers to the dangerous and yet sensitive North Coast, carrying Alberta tar sands oil to Asia.

“We cannot allow what happened with the Exxon Valdez in Alaska or the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico to happen in British Columbia,” said Ms. Murray in a press release. “There’s no going back; our coast would never be the same. Legislation is essential to prevent a major oil spill environmental disaster in B.C.’s renowned coastal waterways.”

The second bit of news involves a recently released report from the Pembina Institute. The report reveals yawning gaps in Enbridge’s application to build the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline from Alberta to B.C.’s North Coast. Enbridge’s application has no shipper commitments and no refinery-specific information, common and indeed standard information in such applications.

The report particularly highlights the serious reality of oil pipeline overcapacity in North America, questioning the need for the Northern Gateway project. According to the report, if both the Northern Gateway and TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipelines become operational by 2016 there would be 41% excess capacity in the export pipeline system. This amounts to two million barrels per day. To fill this pipeline capacity would entail a massive growth in the climate catastrophe that is the Alberta tar sands.

If the government were to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, it would constitute a horrendous attempt to undercut both the limited integrity of the regulatory review process and the larger ecological integrity of our world. The information gaps in the Enbridge proposal would undermine the accountability of what many already see as a horribly-flawed regulatory process. Further, the approval of the pipeline would further invest Canada in the expansion of the tar sands, one of the most ecologically destructive industries on the planet. Just two more reasons that the project must be stopped.

Tyler Shandro during a June 25 news briefing. Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

Tyler McCreary

Tyler McCreary is an Indigenous solidarity activist based in northern British Columbia. He is also currently working towards his PhD in geography at York University.