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Janet Holder, the executive in charge of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, announced her retirement weeks after the Canadian energy company acknowledged that the conduit wouldn’t be operational in 2018 as originally planned.
The pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels a day of crude extracted from oil sands per day from central Alberta through British Columbia to its Pacific terminus in Kitimat, giving Canada its first significant opportunity to serve Asian markets. The project was approved in December 2013 by federal regulators.
But Northern Gateway has been beset with challenges from environmentalists and by First Nations leaders along its route. It also has been slapped with 209 conditions from Canada’s National Energy Board, which have been approved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Holder has spent nearly 20 years of her career with Enbridge, and since 2011 she has been the face and voice of Enbridge in a media campaign seeking support for the project. A cancer survivor, she announced Nov. 12 that she would retire Dec. 31 in order to “focus on my family and my personal health.”
Enbridge President and CEO Al Monaco, issued a statement commending Holder’s efforts to build “trust with communities by listening to their concerns and demonstrating Northern Gateway’s commitment to building a safe project that protects the environment.”
Holder’s replacement as chief of the project will be John Carruthers, who already serves as president of Northern Gateway Pipelines. In a speech to business leaders in Calgary recently he emphasized the importance of building more support from indigenous groups because the idea of opening the pipeline in 2018 was “quickly evaporating.”
“I’m not as fussed on what that date is,” Carruthers said. “I’m more fussed on can we have the support we need to go ahead, so it’s positive for all people of Canada, including aboriginal people. That’s going to take time, and it’s going to take the time it takes."
On paper, at least, Enbridge still plans to build the pipeline and meet the 209 conditions to satisfy the federal government’s environmental concerns. But Art Sterritt, the executive director of the Coastal First Nations along the Pacific, says the company appears to be giving up on the project, which he has frequently called a “case study” in how not to negotiate with aboriginal peoples.
“I don’t blame [Holder] for resigning. Obviously the project can’t go ahead,” Sterritt told the Vancouver Observer. “I just wish her well in her future life.”
A new challenge arose on Sept. 26 when a federal appeals court permitted the Gitxaala Nation, which lives near the pipeline’s route in British Columbia, to seek a judicial review of the project’s approval. In fact in July there was news that various First Nations have mounted at least nine separate challenges to the pipeline.
At that time, Martin Louie, chief councilor of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, also in British Columbia, said most people in his province and many in the rest of Canada support indigenous people’s effort to block the pipeline.
“We call this beautiful B.C.,” he said, “and that is what we want to keep it as.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com