The federal cabinet has approved NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd.’s 2017 system expansion project, subject to 36 binding conditions.
"The twin imperatives of economic prosperity and environmental protection guided us in our decision-making and I am confident the right decision was made in the interest of Canadians and that this project supports the principles of sustainable development,” Jim Carr, natural resources minister, said in announcing the approval.
The $1.3 billion project would provide natural gas from the emerging shale plays in British Columbia and Alberta as well as additional tight conventional supply sources from the Deep Basin of Alberta to meet the growing demand from the Alberta oilsands.
The proposed expansion (Section 52 facilities) consists of approximately 230 kilometres of pipeline in five pipeline section loops, along with two compressor station unit additions in northern Alberta, mainly adjacent to existing sites. Approximately 91 per cent of the project will parallel existing pipelines and roads.
The National Energy Board (NEB) had recommended approval of the expansion, saying that it was satisfied that the project is, and will be, required by the present and future public convenience and necessity.
The expansion project will create up to 3,000 jobs during construction, address the need for increased natural gas transmission capacity along the existing NGTL system and support economic growth in Alberta and across the country, said the government.
In January, the federal government announced a set of interim principles to guide decisions on major projects already being reviewed while longer-term reforms to regulatory processes are underway. The 2017 NGTL expansion project was assessed using the interim principles.
In its decision to approval the expansion, the government said it took into consideration the NEB’s recommendation report on the project, Environment and Climate Change Canada's assessment of upstream greenhouse gas emissions, the views of Canadians gathered through an online questionnaire and enhanced consultations with Indigenous peoples. The outcomes of all of these processes are available to Canadians.
The 36 conditions recommended by the NEB and imposed by the government will address the key concerns, including emergency response, waterways, caribou, engaging indigenous communities, and wetlands and wildlife.
The conditions include:
· Developing an emergency response plan to ensure emergency response measures are adequate in the unlikely event of a leak;
· Seeking authorizations under the Fisheries Act and ensuring water sources will not be impacted by crossings and the fish populations will not be threatened;
· Developing a caribou habitat restoration plan and taking measures to limit disturbance to caribou and their habitat;
· Engaging indigenous communities, incorporating traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, providing employment opportunities and continually engaging with and responding to feedback from indigenous communities throughout the life of the project; and
· Taking measures to reduce the disturbance of vegetation, wetlands and wildlife during the construction, operation and decommissioning of the project.