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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Death of Keystone means Enbridge fight really begins

The decision of the Obama government in the U.S. to turn down the licence to build the Keystone pipeline from the oilsands in Alberta to the refineries in Texas means that the Canadian government will put all it's efforts in getting the Enbridge pipeline built. The Enbridge pipeline is being proposed to carry oil west to the the B.C. coast and the Pacific Ocean for distribution to markets in Asia. Reacting to the announcement of the U.S. government's decision, Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver issued a press release stating that relying less on the U.S. would help strengthen the country’s “financial security.” The release stated that "Ninety-nine percent of our oil exports currently flow to the United States. Today’s decision by the Obama Administration underlines the importance of diversifying and expanding our markets, including the growing Asian market, to help ensure the financial security of Canadians and families for decades to come.”

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has already struck hard against foes of the Enbridge pipeline saying that they are being manipulated by outside interests. In an Open Letter to the Canadian Public, Oliver said opponents to the project were fueled by a "radical ideological agenda" and "funded by foreign special interests."The Canadian government is considering measures to fasttrack large projects like the Enbridge pipeline in order to limit opportunities for opposition.

Meanwhile Enbridge is trying to contain a leak in it's current pipeline. In a press release issued January 18, Enbridge stated that it will begin investigative digs to identify where and how much oil has been spilled from it's Norman Wells pipeline. The release states, "as part of our ongoing integrity program, Enbridge has, to date, identified seven locations in the Deh Cho for investigative digs to be completed by mid-March. Discussions have been held with the leadership of the communities who are in proximity to our pipeline about the program."

The leak was first downplayed at a mere 4 barrells when it was discovered in May of last year. It is now estimated at up to 1,500 barrels. A member of the NWT territorial government, Kevin Menicoche issued a press release last spring expressing his concern. “There have been a few big oil leaks in the world recently. The most current is the leak in northern Alberta. This always provokes concern for our water, our animals and for the safety of the public. It is my hope that the leak is addressed as safely and as expeditiously as possible" Mr Menicoche said is his statement.

This week he expressed concern that Enbridge has not acted responsibly. Mr. Menicoche who once worked as a safety inspector for Enbridge told the Montreal Gazzette on Thursday,"a mature company like that should have known more than four barrels were spilled."

The question of maturity is surely going to come to the fore as the process moves forward. The Harper government has stated in no uncertain terms that they expect to win this game and like a spoiled child they don't mind changing the rules in order to do it.