Calgary-based Enbridge has asked Canadian energy regulators for a three-year extension on the deadline to begin construction of its C$7.9 billion (US$6.2 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline.
Last week, Enbridge said the extension would give the company time to consult with aboriginal communities in Western Canada that oppose the project.
“From the beginning, Northern Gateway should have done a better job of building relationships with First Nations and Metis communities,” Northern Gateway’s president, John Carruthers, said in a statement.
“Northern Gateway has changed,” he said. “We are making progress and remain open to further changes. We believe this is the right course of action for Northern Gateway and the right thing to do as Canadians. We know this process requires time, and we are committed to getting it right.”
In June 2014, Canada’s former Conservative government approved Northern Gateway subject to the project meeting 209 conditions recommended by regulators, including that construction begin before the end of 2016. Construction has not started, though, because British Columbia will not issue the necessary permits until Northern Gateway meets the province’s own conditions related to environmental and aboriginal concerns.
Northern Gateway is a twin pipeline designed to carry 525,000 barrels per day of crude from Alberta’s oil sands to a terminal in British Columbia for export to Asia. From the start, the project has faced opposition from First Nations and environmentalists who claim the pipeline will contribute to carbon emissions by helping boost the development of Canada’s oil sands. Concerns have also been raised over the potential impact of a spill from the pipeline.
Several aboriginal groups have sued separately to stop Northern Gateway from going ahead, and some say that no amount of consultation with Enbridge will win them over. A consortium of 31 First Nations and Metis communities supports Northern Gateway, though.
Canada’s current Liberal government is also sceptical about Northern Gateway. However, the project received a boost last month when it was reported that the government was considering exempting certain petroleum products from a proposed moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the northern coast of BC.