Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper

Pipeline won’t be imposed, Harper says

PM Stephen Harper says the feds aren't planning to impose the Northern Gateway pipeline on B.C.

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected suggestions his government is considering pushing through the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline across northern B.C.

Harper was asked about Enbridge Inc.’s pipeline project at a stop in Vancouver Tuesday, and the frequent accusation that he has already decided it is in the national interest for it to proceed.

“I’ve been very clear that decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project,” Harper said.

“I think that’s the only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner, to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.”

Harper told reporters he has spoken with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and other premiers about pipelines, but those conversations are private. It’s his first public comment since a dispute erupted between Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford in July over Clark’s demand for more revenues.

“I’m not going to get into an argument or discussion about how we divide hypothetical revenues,” Harper said.

He did emphasize that in general, it is important for Canada to diversify its trade and open up new markets in Asia. The federal government is planning “huge investments” to improve environmental protection for shipping resource material, but it won’t favour any individual project, he said.

Kinder Morgan hopes to twin its existing oil pipeline from Alberta to port and refinery facilities in Burnaby, to transport more heavy oil from the Athabasca oil sands. But the company has not yet formally applied for federal environment assessment.

Clark initially said her government would wait until the federal assessment of Enbridge is concluded in 2013 before deciding whether to support it. Then in late July, the B.C. government presented a list of five preconditions, including a positive recommendation from the federal review.

The others are “world-leading” oil spill prevention and response capability on land and at sea, meeting legal requirements to consult and accommodate aboriginal groups along pipeline routes, and a “fair share” of oil revenues for B.C.