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Northern Gateway pipeline gets handed another setback from B.C. Supreme Court

The Douglas Channel, the proposed shipping route for oil tanker ships in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, just south of Kitmat, B.C. The project  aims to ship 525,000 barrels of oilsands crude a day to the port of Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asia.

VANCOUVER — An alliance of First Nations is celebrating a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling that it says could set back the Northern Gateway pipeline by years and throw a wrench into another high-profile project review.

The case was brought forward by the Gitga’at First Nation and Coastal First Nations, which represents nine aboriginal communities along B.C.’s northern and central coast, including the Gitg’aat.

At the centre of the challenge was an equivalency agreement in which British Columbia gave the National Energy Board the power to review the controversial pipeline proposal. The court found the province “breached the honour of the Crown” by failing to consult with the Gitga’at and Coastal First Nations.

That means the equivalency agreement is invalid and the province must make its own decision on Northern Gateway — after consulting with and accommodating First Nations along the route.
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“We’re now at the point where if Northern Gateway as a company wanted to move ahead, it would almost have to start over,” said Art Sterritt, a member of the Gitga’at who’s been a staunch opponent of Northern Gateway.

Northern Gateway has had a federal permit in hand — with 209 conditions attached — since mid-2014, but the company has not officially committed to building the project. Instead, it has been looking to garner support from First Nations along the route.

The ruling is the latest setback for the project, which aims to ship 525,000 barrels of oilsands crude a day to the port of Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asia. The federal Liberal government has said it wants to formalize a tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast — a move many say would essentially kill the project.

Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said Enbridge remains committed and that the NEB’s review was one of the “most exhaustive” in Canadian history.

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