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Q&A: Enbridge VP makes pitch in B.C.
Janet Holder, Enbridge Inc. vice president responsible for the Northern Gateway pipeline project, was in Victoria Tuesday to give a speech to the Canadian Club. Before the speech, she spoke with Black Press legislative reporter Tom Fletcher. Here is an edited transcript:
TF: The International Energy Agency just released a report that says the United States expects to be self-sufficient in oil in five years because of increased shale oil production. What does that mean for oil sands and the Northern Gateway proposal?
JH: It has been a few years that the U.S. has talked about being self-sufficient or self-contained in oil, and people have questioned whether that includes Canadian oil or not. If that is a reality, then that increases the need to for Canada to get to tidewater with its oil. Our number one export in Canada is oil, and 99 per cent of it is going to the U.S. right now.
TF: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was just in town. He says pipe the oil to the east and refine it in Canada, absolutely no way to Northern Gateway. Your response?
JH: I think there is value to moving oil to the East Coast and there are a number of possibilities there. The value of the Northern Gateway project is that it's the most economical access to the Pacific Rim.
TF: What about refining oil in B.C.?
JH: As a pipeline company we can move any oil product, refined or not refined. So we're indifferent. If it does make economic sense to refine oil in British Columbia, then we're quite comfortable with that.
TF: A lot of the opposition relates to crude oil tankers. Is that the biggest obstacle, or is it the overland route?
JH: We don't believe tankers are the toughest challenge. It may be perceived by a lot of individuals that that is the issue, but we are creating a world-class marine system off the North Coast of B.C. that will set the standard for ports around the world. We look at all environmental aspects equally, and we want to build a pipeline, a terminal and a marine system that is world class.
TF: B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake has described Enbridge's testimony at federal hearings in Prince George as "long on promises and short on solid evidence." Your response?
JH: I was quite surprised with his comments. We could not have been more forthright in our answers that day, or provided any more detail. There is a process here. We don't have all the answers today, and we don't pretend to. If we were to get a positive recommendation from the Joint Review Panel at the end of next year, we would still have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend from today until we put a shovel in the ground.
We are continually evolving the project, and that's how it works. You take enough information to the JRP to prove it's in the economic interest of Canadians and to prove that you can build this pipeline in an environmentally sustainable, safe way.
That being given, you refine that down more. We're looking at a corridor that's a kilometre wide right now, which is normal for the JRP process. If you get approval, you narrow it down to a 25-metre corridor, do more engineering studies, more studies in the field, until we can say here is exactly where we're going to go and how we're going to build it.
TF: There has been discussion about the impact on caribou migration, one of many wildlife issues. Can you talk about that?
JH: We look at all species at risk, and caribou is one species where we have made a lot of effort, and hired experts to work with us. The majority of the pipeline is actually going along already disturbed land. A lot of it is due to logging and pine beetle kill. What we will do where there are caribou migration areas is actually improve the land from where it is today, and make it more conducive to caribou.
TF: The issue wildlife biologists talk about is that all resource development opens up and changes the whole ecology of the area, increasing access for moose and predators like wolves.
JH: You don't want to open up land, because the caribou are easier targets as prey. More than 70 per cent of the pipeline route is actually along roadways used for taking down beetle-killed timber or other logging. Those clear rights-of-way already exist. We will berm, we will put trees in, we will actually create a friendlier environment for the caribou than what those roads and clearcuts have done.
TF: Can you give me an update on discussions with aboriginal communities?
JH: As you probably heard, we had a 10-per-cent equity offering out that ended just before last Christmas, and we had 60 per cent of the First Nations, split evenly between British Columbia and Alberta, who have signed on to those equity agreements. We have not released any further equity, but have ongoing discussions with a number of First Nations with regard to potential procurement opportunities once we're in construction mode.
There is about $800 million worth of goods and services along the pipeline construction in British Columbia alone, and we feel probably $300 million of that or more can be provided through First Nations communities. We're having ongoing discussions with regards to education and skills training.
We have already offered training to First Nations, and of course they will be trained well before we get approval and will be off doing something else. But we hope they will come back and work for us.