The federal government’s recent approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alta. to B.C. will create thousands of new jobs, but not just for those two provinces, says the CEO of a mobile workforce supplier.
Hunter Reid, CEO of TDT Crews Inc. — a construction company with offices in Stoney Creek, Ont. and Edmonton that specializes in supplying crews of Canadian workers to regions across the country — says that the major project will create a “huge demand” for skilled trades, especially from Ontario’s large, skilled construction workforce. “There’s no question that labour mobility will be critical,” he says, adding that the project will create as many as 3,000 construction jobs.
On June 17, the federal government approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, subject to 209 legally enforceable conditions previously recommended by the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel, an independent tribunal. Among the recommendations in its December 2013 report were: the development of a pipeline environmental effects monitoring program; the submission of a quality management plan; preparation and implementation of a caribou habitat restoration plan; and specific fracture toughness testing.
In general, the panel — which heard from more than 1,450 participants in 21 communities in Alta. and B.C., reviewed more than 175,000 pages of evidence and received 9,000 letters of comment — concluded that the environmental risks could generally be effectively mitigated and the construction and operation of the project, in compliance with the panel’s conditions, was in the public’s best interest.
In addition, the panel included in its conditions a requirement that Northern Gateway comply with all of the more than 400 voluntary commitments made by Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership during the review process, including making the pipeline walls 20 per cent thicker than current standards in sensitive areas and deployment of additional radar to monitor marine traffic. “In its report, the panel found that the proponent’s voluntary commitments exceeded those typically proposed for pipeline projects, including the marine regulatory requirements related to navigation, safety, and oil spill preparedness and planning,” says a backgrounder from Natural Resources Canada.
Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Greg Rickford, said in a statement on June 17 that the government had accepted the review panel’s conditions and “today constitutes another step in the process. Consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits. The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route,” he adds.
Rickford notes that he recently met with First Nations leaders to discuss new ways to engage with and involve them in energy infrastructure development. The meeting resulted in the creation of the Major Projects Management Office West, a “single window” for the government of Canada to coordinate activities with B.C. First Nations and industry in B.C. and Alta. “A key function of this office will be to facilitate meaningful engagement and ongoing dialogue with key partners such as industry, First Nations and the government of British Columbia and to address the unique elements of energy exports in B.C.,” Rickford says, adding that the office will strive to involve First Nations in areas such as employment and business opportunities and tanker and pipeline safety systems.
Janet Holder, the leader of the Northern Gateway project, says that she is pleased with the decision to approve the project and that Enbridge and its funding partners will continue to build trust with Aboriginal communities along the proposed route. “We have signed 26 equity partnerships with these communities so far, representing more than 60 per cent of the Aboriginal population along the proposed right-of-way,” she says. “But our work is not done.”
Holder says that she will continue to work towards meeting the 209 conditions, adding that she understands that economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand. “Time and again, people have told us Northern Gateway is important to our future, but only if we do it right,” she says.
Bob Blakely is the chief operating officer of Canada’s Building Trades Unions in Ottawa, which represents more than half a million Canadian construction workers in 14 different international unions who work in more than 60 different trades and occupations. He welcomes the federal government’s decision, saying that the project has been through the most rigorous environmental review of its kind in Canadian history and would provide well-paying jobs. “We live here, and we aren’t going to ruin the environment for the sake of a couple of paycheques,” says Blakely. “It’s good for working people, it’s good for communities.”
Alberta Premier Dave Hancock calls the pipeline proposal “a step forward,” saying in a statement that it would “create and support more jobs and generate increased revenue to help pay for vital public services, like quality healthcare and education for all Canadians.”
The Northern Gateway project has attracted controversy, particularly from Aboriginal communities, some of whom have threatened legal action. “First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” says a news release from a coalition of B.C. aboriginal groups, posted on the website of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. “We will defend our territories, whatever the costs may be.”
When completed, the 1,777-kilometre twin pipeline is expected to carry 525,000 barrels of crude oil per day and ship 193,000 barrels per day by condensate pipeline between Bruderheim, Alta. and Kitimat, B.C.
Jason Contant is the editor of Pipeline Magazine.
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