Legal Battle with First Nations Could Tie-Up Enbridge Pipeline For Decades

Remember that wake-up call we talked about for the financial and oil & gas communities about "the wall" of First Nations opposition facing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline? Well, this is it. Excerpts from "First nations dig in against Enbridge pipeline," by Carrie Tait and Nathan Vanderklippe, The Globe and Mail, May 13, 2011:

" the demonstration carried on, Jim Prentice, the former federal minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, was inside a hotel across the street, warning after a speech that those drums pack a powerful beat. In fact, first nations opponents, he said, wield substantial power over projects such as Enbridge’s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, the biggest in its history.

Legal experts go even further. The people banging those drums [First Nations], some argue, have the constitutional clout to put up insurmountable obstacles for the proposed Northern Gateway – namely, a messy legal debate around unsettled land claims along the route that will likely be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada."


"Observers have drawn comparisons with the Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline, which was first proposed in the 1970s, again with northern first nations presiding over unsettled claims...Today,almost 40 years after the now $16-billion pipeline was proposed, a large segment of the natural gas industry believes the project, led by Imperial Oil, won’t be built because it no longer makes financial sense given the vast quantities of gas that have since been discovered in places like British Columbia and Texas."


"'There’s ammunition on the first nations side that allows them to wage a very long struggle,' said Gordon Christie, an associate professor of law at the University of British Columbia who specializes in first nations legal issues."


When it comes to opposing projects that would make climate change worse and put communities at risk of oil spills, especially in British Columbia, the smart money is on supporting First Nations empowerment.