OTTAWA — Northern Gateway, Keystone XL, Enbridge and TransCanada: these are a few of the names that dominated the political lexicon in 2012.
Pipelines surged to the forefront of the news over the past 12 months and sparked a national debate over the impacts of resource development on the economy, environment, aboriginal groups and wellbeing of all Canadians.
That’s why “pipeline politics” is my 2012 story of the year.
The epicentre of the battle over pipelines was the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. The $6-billion pipeline would transport oilsands crude from northern Alberta to the port of Kitimat, B.C., for shipment by tankers to Asian markets.
But the project, which is being examined by a federal joint-review panel, has generated unprecedented criticism from environmental groups, aboriginals and the B.C. government over its potential ecological footprint.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver say additional pipeline capacity is critical to the Canadian economy. They have criticized “foreign money” and “radical” environmental groups for attempting to hijack regulatory hearings and ultimately derail major pipeline projects.
British Columbia is refusing to support the pipeline until Ottawa and Alberta agree to five environmental and fiscal conditions, including B.C. receiving its “fair share” of economic benefits.
Pipeline politics also stretched across the border into the United States. Early in the year, the Obama administration denied a presidential permit for construction of the $7-billion TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oilsands crude from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
TransCanada agreed to reroute parts of the pipeline due to environmental concerns, and reapplied for a presidential permit. A final decision on the pipeline is expected from the Obama administration in early 2013.
Back in Canada, provinces and the federal government are lining up to support a west-east pipeline to help ship western Canadian crude to Central Canada and the Atlantic provinces.