CALGARY — Enbridge Inc. aims to file a regulatory application for its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline this month, chief executive Pat Daniel said Wednesday as opponents peppered him with questions at the company’s annual meeting.
Leaders from the Wet’suwet’en and Carrier Sekani groups in northwestern British Columbia travelled to Calgary to voice their concerns about Northern Gateway, which could transport more than 500,000 barrels of crude per day between Alberta and the West Coast port of Kitimat, B.C.
John Ridsdale, with the Wet’suwet’en, stepped up to the microphone and asked Daniel how Northern Gateway can possibly proceed when those living along the proposed route have so vehemently said “no” to the $5.5-billion project.
“We want to work with you to try to turn that no to a yes,” Daniel replied.
Bringing energy resources to market is vital to Canada’s economy and maintaining our way of life, Daniel said, noting that many of the most ardent opponents of energy development have access to cheap and virtually unlimited energy.
“We walk in and expect to turn on the light switch or step on the gas pedal or turn up the thermostat and we expect everything to magically work,” Daniel said.
“You can’t do that and oppose every energy development project.”
Ridsdale said allowing the pipeline in exchange for financial incentives — like some aboriginal groups have done in the North with the Mackenzie pipeline — is not an option.
“There is all negatives and no positives,” he said in an interview. “One pipeline burst is all it takes. There’s no amount of technology out there right now that can predict this will never happen.”
“A very minute amount of oil can do a tremendous amount of ecological damage.”
Terry Teegee with the neighbouring Carrier Sekani said his community weighed the benefits and drawbacks of supporting the pipeline.
“Our peoples, in separate ways, stated that the risk is too high for the limited benefits,” he said.
Northern Gateway is targeted to start up in 2016, but risks being held back by legal challenges. The pipeline would cross key watersheds that are home to the salmon stocks on which the local communities rely.
Earlier Wednesday, Enbridge reported its net earnings in the first quarter fell 39 per cent to $342 million or 93 cents a share for the January-March period. That compared with a profit of $558 million or $1.54 a share last year, when the company booked gains from the sale of a Colombian pipeline.
Excluding one-time gains and losses, adjusted earnings rose to $318 million from $268 million.
Analysts were on average expecting earnings of 79 cents per share, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.
Enbridge last month started up another major pipeline, Alberta Clipper. Alberta Clipper stretches 1,600 kilometres from Alberta to Wisconsin, with a capacity of 450,000 barrels per day. It was originally supposed to start up in July, but Enbridge said in January it would come into service ahead of schedule.
Enbridge shares closed down 53 cents at $48.29 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.