Cabinet approves the Northern Gateway project

Cabinet approves the Northern Gateway project

Late last year, the National Energy Board (NEB) released its decision on the Northern Gateway Project and recommended approval of the project subject to 209 conditions (see here for our summary of that decision). While the NEB conducted the public hearing and issued a decision, the final decision to approve or not approve the project rested with the federal Cabinet. On June 17th, Cabinet announced that it has accepted the NEB decision in its entirety (see here).

Cabinet’s decision

With Cabinet approval secured, the NEB will now proceed to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity under section 52 of the National Energy Board Act. Issuance of the certificates of public convenience and necessity is merely one step toward full approval of the project. Cabinet’s press release indicates that Enbridge is still required to acquire other permits and approvals. These may be federal (for example, approvals under the Fisheries Act) or provincial (both Alberta and British Columbia).  As well, according to the press release, Enbridge is still required to consult with affected communities and aboriginal peoples.  And, of course, many of the 209 conditions must be met by Enbridge before the project can proceed.

Will the project actually proceed?

Despite approval by Cabinet, a good question is whether or not the project will actually proceed? There are several factors to keep in mind when answering this question:

  • There are still outstanding legal challenges to the NEB’s decision report (there are at least five applications for judicial review filed by either First Nations or environmental groups).
  • Several aboriginal communities have expressed staunch opposition to the project. Aboriginal peoples have a constitutional right to be consulted and accommodated where their aboriginal rights may be affected. While Cabinet’s press release suggests that Enbridge must fulfill the duty to consult and accommodate, this duty actually rests with the provincial and federal governments.
  • The B.C. government has indicated its rejection of this project unless Enbridge can meet five conditions set by the province (see our previous post). This may impact on Enbridge’s ability to obtain the necessary permits and approvals from the B.C. government.
  • There is strong public opposition to this project, especially in British Columbia, which may impact on Enbridge’s consultation efforts and ability to obtain general public acceptance for the project.

So, even though the Northern Gateway project has won Cabinet approval, it is foreseeable that these factors may impact its actual progress.

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