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'This is where Enbridge hits a wall': First Nations promise to stop pipeline

A full-page ad in today's Globe and Mail shows a bleak black and white photo of a tanker floating in the midst of a vast oil slick. Underneath, the words 'This was Exxon’s Gift to Alaska. B.C. can expect the same from Enbridge.'

Today is, not coincidentally, the 21st anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and on the heels of the ad came an announcement from the Coastal First Nations (an alliance of nine nations from the central coast to Haida Gwaii) declaring that " upholding our ancestral laws, rights and responsibilities. . . oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands will not be allowed to transit our lands and waters."

The oil tankers are part and parcel with Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would deliver bitumen from Alberta to an expanded Kitimat port, and on to Asia, and would end a long-standing moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

Enbridge is facing serious opposition to another one of its Canadian pipeline projects, in Saskatchewan, where two summers ago bands there barricaded a road to a pipeline construction site.

Gerald Amos, director of the Coastal First Nations, stated in a press release that this, too, is "where Enbridge hits a wall."

"We will protect ourselves and the interests of future generations with everything we have because one major oil spill on the coast of British Columbia would wipe us out," said Amos. "This bountiful and globally significant coastline cannot bear an oil spill."

The Union of B.C. Indians Chiefs (UBCIC) also ratified a resolution opposing the pipeline.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBIC, stated in a press release, "The UBCIC is opposed to the Enbridge Pipeline Project and stands with the many First Nations who are standing as a unified block in their opposition to this proposed Tar Sands pipeline."

In Victoria this afternoon, Premier Gordon Campbell said the project would provide "hundreds and hundreds" of jobs to First Nations in the north, adding that government's job is to "try and find ways we can get the First Nations people engaged with pay cheques building the kind of economic future they need..."

The premier said the proposal will be subject to a rigorous environmental approval process. "I have concern that we allow the process to take place, allow First Nations to be fully consulted as we will across the north of the province and we'll see what the results of that are," Campbell said.

Campbell also said the project "meshes" with British Columbia's climate change goals. "We can in fact help other parts of the world reduce their greenhouse gas emissions dramatically by providing them with lower-carbon fuels in other parts of the world where they are using very high-carbon fuels like coal."

News of this unified and unequivocal position is also making the rounds on stock analyst and business websites. Uncertainty around First Nations relationships is already cause for concern amongst Enbridge shareholders. Last year, the vice-president of Ethical Funds, one of Enbridge's shareholders, told the Globe and Mail that First Nations opposition to the Gateway project was a clear risk to investors.

Aside from being a public relations problem, this opposition has so far not affected Enbridge's bottom line. Last month the company reported a 14-per-cent increase in fourth-quarter earnings and an 18-per-cent increase in full-year profits -- it's best in history.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee

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